Reflection

Living in the Tensions

August 13, 2016

Trusting God in the Mystery.

Do you ever long for clear black and white answers to certain questions? Do you wish life could be more simple, that you could root yourself in a place where you don’t have to wrestle with gray areas? Are you frustrated by the messiness in daily life and relationships that seem to refuse to be solved with rules and principles?

I do. I like things simple. If it can be simplified and reduced to an easily digested truth or recipe, I will make it so. If I can make clear judgments on myself and others and create a sense of security constructing protective walls as quickly as possible, I will do it. I am uncomfortable being suspended in mystery. I do not like living in the tensions.

There is a prevalent message in the church today that says that the Bible holds all the answers for life. It is true that there is solid truth to hold on to and He has given us the gospel clearly in it, thanks be to God! We can hold on to all promises given in scripture standing on them no matter how we feel. But more often than not, when we grapple honestly with the story of scripture, the character of God, the human condition, and the life of Jesus as written in the gospels, we end up with more questions than answers. Often when we are exposed to the dark places in this world, the tragedies due to sin, we ask more hard questions. In my experiences as a spiritual director, I have walked with people through dark places of pain and evil that do not afford quick fixes and simplified responses even when some part of me longs to give them.

Have you ever noticed that Jesus seems to contradict Himself? And that most questions posed to him are met with more questions rather than answers? He always pointed people away from the control-grasping answers back to the disarming needs and desires of the heart. He always points to the inner life that exposes helpless places, rather than knowledge outside of the heart and understanding sought in order to control and fix things.

God often handles my heart in this manner in my communion with Him. Sometimes I get clear guidance and clarity on matters. But often I will bring him the contradictions in my life and scripture and ask him, Which is it Lord? only to hear back either another question from Him that undoes even further what careful constructs I have managed thus far, or I get a simple “Yes”. Yes?!

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We hate “both and” answers because it messes with our ability to judge ourselves and others and to know the course of action we should take in many circumstances. It leaves us open, questioning. As He gently takes away the control we seek by avoiding our grasping questions, He always leaves us with a choice. We can choose to disconnect our hearts from Him and get busy hunting for the answers and solutions ourselves, sometimes even using the living words of scripture to accomplish this. Or we can stop asking hard questions, justify our final answers, and refuse to engage those who still wrestle with these questions. OR we can choose to rest in the silence of His presence and walk moment by moment listening and trusting him, one step at a time, amid the poor visibility of the Cloud before us.

The first choice is characterized by a scrambling spirit, an urgent search driven by fear and insecurity. There is the sense that until we can pin down the answer, there will be no peace for us. The second choice leaves us closed off to many people unless they see how we see. There is often an impatience with those who we understand as refusing to have faith and, with that impatience, a desire to silence their questions with the right answers. Excessive busyness and quick problem solving also tend to accompany this choice.

In the latter choice, God offers us the gift of rest and His “peace that passes understanding.” It is a choice to trust Him and give up control. There is often a prayer-fulness that accompanies us in our study of the scriptures which penetrates deeply and becomes personal, alive in our life. We are patient with God’s process in growing our own faith and shaping our own heart. There is an openness and patience with those who are wrestling, who may seem weaker in faith. We can trust His process in them and are free to stay in relationship over the long haul. There is a prayerful patience as God shows us where and how to serve and love and work. The work is born out of prayer and listening and any urgency is driven by a deep love for Christ and others and not for control or self-preservation. There is an increasing sense of joy in the journey and in the mystery, not perfect or constant, but increasing.

Where is your heart today? Do you hear an invitation to live in the tensions and rest in His knowing for you?

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My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content. 
Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore.”
Psalm 131 New International Version

Copyright text Jennifer Brukiewa

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