The Tension

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Life is full of irony. Sometimes it’s a light-hearted, funny irony, and at others times it’s an irony that causes you to enter the tension. We want to be successful in business, but for many it comes at the cost of a healthy family life. We long and fight for justice, yet many products we buy are unjustly produced. We long to eat healthy, yet most of the “good” tasting food is full of sugar, fat, and grease (at least for my taste buds!). We want to be unified, yet we have this pull to label, box in, and identity on a certain side. We want to serve the poor, but when we do, we often realize it’s we who are being served. We pray for answers, but when the answers come, they aren’t what we’re looking for, so we miss it. We hate racism, but when we truly address it we can’t deny the small (or large) seeds of racism in ourselves. Our children are living in relative comfort, while other children are rocked by a bomb, sitting alone and bloody, scared, confused (I guess this isn’t irony as much as tragic disparity). As Christians we brag about being servants of Christ, but when we’re treated like a servant, we become angry and feel entitled to better treatment (again, this is at least true with me…) Irony, yes. Irony that produces tension.
Tension: the state of being stretched tight. These issues, when exposed to us, seem to stretch us tight, create discomfort, and the tension sets in. “What do we do with this?” Most of the time, the easiest answer is to find a way to relieve the tension, so we run to one side of the issue and neglect the other side. Problem solved. Until the next issue arises, and if we’re honest with ourselves, these tense issues rear their ugly heads every day. We can’t run from the tension, but we can deny it, numb ourselves from it, remain ignorant. We can… but could it be that these are the very things that destroy our souls. 
This is why Jesus constantly drove people into the tension. Time and time again when asked questions like, “What’s the greatest commandment?” “Who’s my neighbor?” “Do we pay taxes or not?” “How do you inherit eternal life?” Jesus’ answers created tension. He didn’t give a pass to those looking for a quick way out or a quick answer through a doctrinal loophole. He pressed them to be honest, to live in to the tension of honesty, self-reflection, humility, sacrifice; to die to the habits that were killing them, and oppressing others. 
Most of the answers we are looking for in life, aren’t easy ones, or else we would’ve found answers already. And most of the time, the partial answer is mysterious and left open ended. It’s in this place of tension, where we can’t fall back on programmed responses. It’s here that we are thrown into the depths of our desires, our beliefs, and we are left to wrestle with who we truly are. Are we going to live in to the mystery, the tension, and trust that we aren’t the ones holding all things/all beliefs together? Are we going to allow the process of unknowing to shape us into a people who truly know the one who does hold it all together, at the cost (or risk) of being labeled by your own tribe as “going off the deep end,” according to your tribe’s standard, or are we going to settle, run to one side of the camp, and stake our flag on the “right” side. 
It’s in the tension where we have the opportunity to become properly tuned. Jon Foreman gives a great metaphor for tension, likening it to guitar strings that are strung tight enough to hold a tune. It’s in the tension where we play on tune. Strung too tight, we bust. Not strung tight enough, we make awful noises. If you have honest friends around you who aren’t just a fan of yours, they’ll tell you when you’re  about to bust, or if you sound horrible. When you are offended by a friend or acquaintance, you are then offered the gift of tension. Who are you going to choose to be? Are you going to run to one side and stake your flag, or will you live in to the tension of teachableness, humility? This is all too convicting for me, even as I write this. 
Right now, in this season, we have a great opportunity to live in to the tension of life without running to one side or the other, claiming the other side as demons, or wrong, or lost. I confess, I’ve done plenty of flag staking, and I am not proud of it, and neither has it produced any beautiful lovely sounding music. It won’t, because it’s not tuned. Today, we have opportunities to embrace the beauty of mystery and unknowing. To admit we’re not the ones holding it all together (or to admit that our country or tribe isn’t the one holding all things together). 
Jesus constantly broke the mold of what was right, and I’m convinced followers of Jesus are called to live in to the same ethos, to passionately stand in the middle, confidently living in mystery and certainty. Embracing the tension in our own lives first, then embracing others who are struggling to find the confidence to stand where it hurts as well.
The glory of God is revealed through a broken man. Tension. 
The cross, the greatest act of love. Tension. 
The tomb becomes a womb. Tension. 
Beauty is found in death. Tension. 
Ashes produce life. Tension. 
The way up is down. Tension. 
The way to access power is to give up power. Tension. 
To become the greatest, you must become a servant of all. Tension. 
Gain life by losing your life. Tension. 
“With that in mind, I feel like dying to myself is a daily task necessary for true abundant life.” Jon Foreman

Holy Week Observations

Thursday: Power laid down. The master who has more power than any other human would know what to do with, shows us what it looks like to lead. Instead of using power to have others serve him, he wraps a towel around his waist and becomes lower than the lowest servant. He breaks bread with his betrayer, showing us what it looks like to observe communion. He sets a new standard for neighborliness and elevates love above all else. The greatest farewell speech ever is given in a small room with only a handful of attendees. Something is radically different about this Passover feast.

Friday: Betrayal. Abandonment. Confusion. Fear. Anxiety. Anger. Resentment. Greed. It all took place throughout the tnight. Today, the earth goes dark, the way things are will continue to get terribly exposed, and we can’t deny that something with humanity is terribly wrong. Today, the ugly and brutal cross will serve as the means and the sign, of radical love, forgiveness, peace, and a path towards the renewal of humanity. All because of a God who gets us, who understands our frame, our hidden scars, who is passionate about us being with him as a reunited family, and was not afraid of our mess, absorbing it all into himself and offered us keys to remove the shackles that have kept us locked up, numb, vulnerable. Today we learn of the tension of the “good” Friday.

Saturday: If we’re truthful with ourselves, our longings, our desires, all the letdowns in life, today is the day of embracing the tension. The tension of what’s been lost, of what’s yet to come, or of what’s been promised but you haven’t seen it yet. It’s the tween time, it’s the time that’s hard to explain and it seems foolish to keep hoping. It’s the day many of us give up and give in. Let that emotion sink in today. Feel it, ponder it, share it with others, but know the story isn’t over. There’s green pastures coming, but it’s going to come in a way that’s totally unexpected, wait for it, ask for the eyes to see it today, in the midst of the tension. This is where beauty is born. Midnight is coming, and in the darkness, salvation will come.

Sunday: Early this morning, when it was still dark, in the quietness of the midnight, the world shook. A body that should’ve been decaying acted in such a way that is so utterly otherworldly. The most vile wickedness this world had to offer, the God-man absorbed, killing his body, setting in motion the first death among many, that would turn wickedness into goodness, ugliness into beauty, death into renaissance, a tomb into a womb. Angels were there to witness it, the women were the first to believe it, and the religious were the first to deny it. This is the day which has been forever debated, but regardless of the debate the celebration will always go on.