In Whom We Dwell

notesfromseminary

Hello from divinity school! 

As a way to keep me sane and slay the threat of vanity, I have decided to keep a weekly series, "Notes from Seminary." Over the next three (and a half) years I will share nuggets from the wild community I have stepped into. My prayer is that in sharing what I learn, divinity school might bear fruit in more lives than mine. Seminary is awesome, but it means nothing if kept within the tower.

So, here we go...

Okay. I am going to talk about a theological model for creation and providence. I will say that as a model it is just that—a picture, a grasping, an imaginative attempt at expression and understanding about God.

It is also a model, one model of many, and should be considered in concert with other pictures and ideas.

And it might be a little “out there” for some. It might be scary for others.

But this model might just speak of something hoped for and something very, very true.

Regarding creation and providence, theologian Sallie McFague (whom I absolutely love now and wish to hug right round the neck) offers this idea:

Creation is God’s body. Creation dwells within the womb of God.

[mic drop/gasp/huh?/BOOM]

Shall we risk this motherly picture, this grasping, this particular imagination?

As a wombed creature, I think it is worth daring, but what does it mean?

A fetus-baby is its own self, but it is also completely of its mother. Her body grows and sustains the baby in every way. Baby is flesh of her flesh and bone of her bone, yet completely another.

And she is in love from the beginning.

I imagine God’s joy over creation’s first flutter of life, first kick, the first time creation responded to God’s voice—oh, the unfathomable Light that must have shown from Her eyes! Tears come to my own eyes thinking of the love God has for this growing, developing, evolving other within God’s very Self.

This metaphor affords such intimacy with the divine. It points to the unforsaking nature of God’s infinite love, care, and involvement with creation as it continues to become.

In joy and in pain.

If baby suffers, mother suffers. Pregnant women make changes to their lives to create an inhabitable and suitable place for baby within their own bodies. This is to give room for the child’s development in utero.

But mommies are not always able to prevent disaster in babies (and, thus, within themselves).

Baby gets sick, she cannot control it.

Sometimes babies naturally attack mommy. No wrong or right here, just genetics and reality.

In every scenario, however, the mother suffers with the child. She feels baby’s pain. Her destiny is intimately tied with her offspring.

What if God is like a pregnant woman? What if we (creation) are being formed within the womb of our Mother?

Language and image always fall short of the wholeness of Holy Mystery, but this image helps, I believe.

Working with the cosmic idea of heaven and earth within the womb of God, the conscious creatures of humankind understand that we are not the whole baby. We are part of a whole, conscious—and very special—though we may be.

A question we might consider as conscious beings is what part shall we play? What is our part?

Will we be a cancer infecting God’s baby, or probiotics that promote and further God’s creativity?

Might we be a virus that attacks the placenta, or the matter that receives and responds to the Mother’s biological care?

McFague argues that the answer is in knowing “where” we are in creation; our "part" is to love our earthen neighborhood and help it grow.

A colleague of mine actually said, “This model made me, like, think about the environment. I actually turned my lights off this morning.”

Alright.

Theology matters. Matter matters. It all matters to God—the God in Whom we dwell and find our being (Acts 17:28).