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As followers of Jesus, we watch what he does so we can pattern our lives after his. One of the things we see him doing is intentionally tending three relationships: his “UP” relationship with the Father, his “IN” relationship with his followers, and his “OUT” relationship with the crowds and the world. A triangle is an easy way to have a visual reminder of this three-fold pattern in his life.
In Mark 1 you can see Jesus vividly engaged in all three of these dimensions. For example, in verse 29 we see that he’s been in the synagogue worshipping together with his faith community (Up, In). Next he’s spending time with his disciples at Simon Peter’s home where he heals Simon’s mother-in-law (In). That evening he receives visitors from all over town and heals many (Out). The next morning he sneaks off early to be alone and pray (Up). Once his disciples have tracked him down, he sets out on a trip with them to continue their training (In), visiting neighboring towns to preach and heal there (Out.)
From Jesus’ example we can see what it looks like to tend life in all three dimensions. And as with the Pipe metaphor, there’s a flow taking place. We receive life in the Up dimension; share, enjoy and grow in that life In the faith community; and deliver that life in service Out into the world.
We can also learn from Jesus that “Balance” isn’t something you have, so much as it’s something you do. Balance is not a goal, as if one could arrive at a place where all three areas are equally healthy and just stay there. Rather, balance is a practice of keeping all three in view and adjusting along the way. Balancing as a practice honors the reality of seasons in life (as the Rhythm tool reminds us) and invites us into discernment to follow where Jesus is leading us next.
Here are some of the ways we might engage Up, In and Out in our lives.
Up – Daily prayers, devotions, Bible study and worship; “abiding” and Sabbath practices; talking to God throughout the day; mindfulness practices that make any activity an Up experience as we attend to God’s presence with us.
In - Spending time with other believers to enjoy life, build relationships and care for each other; discipling each other by sharing insights and struggles; getting together, whether it’s in twos and threes or hundreds and thousands, at work or at play.
Out - Caring for people in need; inviting and welcoming people into your life and community; introducing people to Jesus; making life delightful for others; taking care of creation; being a good neighbor and citizen.
The Triangle is a tool to help us see. We can use it when reading scripture, looking for the Up, In and Out themes to help us understand what we’re reading. We can use it as a lens to “read” our own lives, recognizing areas being neglected as well as places where strength and vitality are creating an opportunity for us. We can apply it to ourselves, and also to our groups and faith communities. But the Triangle is a tool for seeing, for helping us hear what the Lord is saying to us. It is not a rule we have to obey or force our lives to fit into.