I wanted to live with God directly and passionately. I did not want God to be some distant being that I needed to please. I didn’t want to access God only through a system of faith or religion. I didn’t want God to be distant at all. But for so long that seemed like a prerequisite for being Christian. You had to begin by believing that God is Other, and then you would follow certain steps to bridge the gap.
I was welcomed into the Christian faith with the understanding that God could live in your heart. I resonated with the personal nature of this: God was as close as my heart. But that was not the full story. I was told I had to adhere to a set of rules if I wanted to make my heart God’s home.
But the Flip allowed me to consider that we live in the heart of God rather than the other way around. It took time for me to get comfortable with this understanding. Flips don’t immediately settle in and start to feel normal. It takes a while.
This notion of our living in the heart of God may not immediately draw you in. While I am now convinced that it lies at the heart of Jesus’s message and even that of the early apostles, I suspect these ideas might make many people nervous. They certainly did me.
It is not essential that anyone immediately embrace a Flip. It is far more important to give it serious consideration. In the weeks following the San Diego conference, I remembered verses I had memorized in my early days of faith. These words from the Bible suddenly were saying so much more than I had noticed before. Flips not only open new pathways, but they also help us re-consider what we have become comfortable with.
One of the Bible passages that kept coming back to me was actually a song sung by first-century followers of Jesus. It’s recorded in Colossians.
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the one who is first over all creation,
Because all things were created by him:
both in the heavens and on the earth,
the things that are visible and the things that
Whether they are thrones or powers, or rulers or authorities,
all things were created through him and for him.
He existed before all things,
and all things are held together in him.
He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning,
the one who is firstborn from among the dead
so that he might occupy the first place in everything.
Because all the fullness of God was pleased to live in him,
and he reconciled all things to himself through him —
whether things on earth or in the heavens. He brought peace through the blood
of his cross.
From the start of the Jesus story, people were saying and singing, “All things were created through him and for him. He existed before all things, and all things are held together in him.”
Like me, the early followers of Jesus were trying to live beyond the idea that God is in some places but not in others, in some people but not in other people, in some times but not in other times. Rather, all that exists is In God. All things are held together In God. And all of creation is being reconciled or seeking to live harmoniously with God.
Over time a passage from the apostle Paul has become one of my favorite constructs for understanding this. Paul said in one of his most famous sermons: “In God we live, move, and exist.” I have a lot more to say about this in the pages of Flipped, but for now let that idea resonate in you.
We are In God.
What a Flip.
God is not a separate subject that we talk about or relate to through belief, behavior, faith, or practice. Much better than that, God is the very existence of all things. We are called to live congruently within the existence that holds all things together. This notion resonates with beauty, intrigue, majesty, and mystery.
When we are In God and not simply relating to God or serving God or walking with God, we are able to find not only our lives but all parts of our lives in the story of God.
Recently I was talking with some people for whom this was a new idea. Katelyn said, “This reminds me of a conversation I had the other day with a friend who is a Buddhist. She told me the reason she is a Buddhist is that Buddhism has a way to include pain and suffering. I feel like understanding ourselves In God also makes room for that. It seems like nothing is left out.”
Katelyn asked several questions about all this, maybe questions similar to ones you have. She said, “I like this idea, but is it really ‘allowed’?” I knew right where she was coming from—I have asked myself that same question.
I have come to believe that not only is it okay, it is the primary understanding of God that we learn from Jesus, Paul, and others. For me, it’s the only way this journey makes sense.
In my book, I invite you to consider a Flip that makes it possible to live in the heart of God. It can change your understanding of God and the way you live. I’m not suggesting a one-time shift in how you understand a theological idea. Rather, it is a journey of experiencing life In God. I have not yet worked out all the nuances and implications of this Flip. But I have great faith that there is as much to be gained by the act of Flipping as there is to sticking the landing.
When we open ourselves to a Flip, we enter a process of change. We can live, move, and exist as people empowered by the constancy of the love, care, and life of God. That might help explain why Jesus introduced so many of his Flips with the phrase “You have heard that it was said . . .” He was reminding us that, in the past, we were taught to think about God in a certain way.
Then Jesus would introduce a Flip: “But I say to you . . .”
The Flip of embracing an All-in-all God, if you take it to heart, can change your life by changing the way you understand God.
See also: Doug Pagitt’s God Beyond Boredom
Doug Pagitt is an author, idea-leader, and speaker, the founder of Solomon’s Porch, a faith community in Minneapolis that focuses on addressing human needs in the neighboring community and facilitating a more personal encounter with God. He is also host of Doug Pagitt Radio and the author of several books, including BodyPrayer, Reimagining Spiritual Formation, and Community in the Inventive Age. Pagitt and his wife, Shelley, live in Minneapolis. This post is based on Doug’s newest book, Flipped: The Provocative Truth That Changes Everything We Know About God.