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

Weekly @Switchfoot Song: Home

Home. I’m currently reading a book called Beyond Homelessness: Christian Faith in a Culture of Displacement, and it is bringing out so much more from this song than it used. This is song # 5 on Switchfoot’s first album (The Legend of Chin) which talks about longing for home, a place to belong. Here’s the lyrics:

It’s a long way from Miami to LA
It’s a longer way from yesterday
To where I am today

It’s a long way from my thoughts
To what I’ll say
It’s a long, long way from paradise
To where I am today

All that’s in my head
Is in Your hands

It’s a long way from
The moon up to the sun
It’s a longer road ahead of me
The road that I’ve begun

Stop to think of all the
Time I’ve lost
Start to think of all the
Bridges that I’ve burned
That must be crossed

Over, over, over
Take me over

I’ve been poison
I’ve been rain
I’ve been fooled again

I’ve seen ashes
Shine like chrome
Someday I’ll see home

Home, home

I can see the stars
From way down here
But I can’t fall asleep
Behind the wheel

It’s a long way from the
Shadows in my cave
Up to Your reality to
Watch the sunlight taking over

Over, over, over
Take me over

I’ve been poison
I’ve been rain
I’ve been fooled again

I’ve seen ashes
Shine like chrome
Someday I’ll see home

This is a “gut” honest song. Confession you can call it, or maybe transparency, or both. “I’ve been poison, I’ve been rain…” Feelings of despair creep in so fast sometimes in life, especially when we make stupid decisions and get “fooled again” with the lust of this world, and the fraudulent beauty that lures us all in to destruction. Many times in life, I’ve felt a long way from home (physically and emotionally). I’ve felt displaced often. I am in a season of displacement (or one could call it homelessness). Things have been uprooted and what was home, familiar, safe… has changed. But it’s often in these season of life when we notice the “stars” from the bottom of our “caves” that we’ve been locked in (or that we’ve locked ourselves in). It’s in the darkness of the cave where we cling to the only thing we can… HOPE.

Hope. Home. As long as we have breath, we have the hope of going home. And in this sense, I mean home with God. To the “place” we’ve always longed for, where our deepest desires are met in one person, one being. Home is where you aren’t supposed to be fooled anymore. Home is the place you aren’t supposed to be worried about being accepted. Home is supposed to be a safe place. It’s a place where the vision of ashes can be seen as chrome (a metaphor for beauty). It’s a place where our sin can be forgiven. It’s a place where rivers of life and peace rush back into our souls.

This is the home I long for, and it’s the kind of home I long to offer (at least in glimpses) to my wife and kids and friends and family. A taste of home happens on this earth when we start being honest about where we are at, what we have done, and ask for help. It’s at this place where we will experience home; grace, forgiveness, mercy, peace. Home can be seen as a house, a neighborhood, a church, as family members, a city, or a country; but all these things have one thing in common… they can be taken from us, and when that happens, we become displaced, homeless, and we are found in a dark cave, longing once a gain for the hope of true reality with God. Home.

Weekly @Switchfoot Song: Underwater

Following along Switchfoot’s first album, the third song on The Legend of Chin (1997) is the song “Underwater”. I think the song speaks for itself, if you pay attention to it when you listen (or read it):

It’s in her head
It’s in her mind
She can’t believe it
Can’t believe she’s running
Out of time

And any hold
That she can find
Something to lean on
Everybody fails her
Half the time

Nothing to be
She’s already been
Plenty of time
Plenty of time
Plenty of time

She lights her candle
6 a.m.
Starting a new one
Every new one hits her
Just the same

Just like clockwork
She climbs down
Into her bottle
No one down there cares
To know her name

She’s underwater
Nowhere now
Underwater upside down
The rising tide won’t
Find her now
She’s lost and found
Underwater

She’s underwater
But she won’t drown
She can’t believe it
And every one she meets
Feels just the same

It takes all day to
Get to tonight
What makes the sunset
And what makes it go back
To where it came

She’s underwater
Nowhere now
She’s underwater
Upside down
The rising tide won’t
Find her now
She’s lost and found
Now she’s upside down
Now she’s six feet down

Underwater

We live in a fast paced world, with people working night and day just to get by, to make a buck, or maybe even find some happiness in this existence. Everyone’s “running out of time,” and there’s not enough hours left in the day… that is, until you’ve been consumed and spit out by the system that eats up dreams, and women, and families, and husbands. There’s not enough time, until you realize, what you’re “running” in can’t be trusted, neither can the people you’re “running” with. We all fail each other, and each time it happens, it still hurts… and no matter who you run to or where you go, the problems are still the same.

So you wait all day just to get to the night, or that place of escape for yourself. In this story it’s the bottle, drowning her pain and lostness by a chemical that gets to her head. We know this story all too well, but what we don’t know, is that we all have a “bottle” we run, that numbs us from feeling, from living truly, that masks us from reality. I know this is true, because we live in a world of too much pain and loss, how could we possibly live in reality everyday. Genocide is happening today. 10’s of thousands of children are dying today. Right now there’s a child being sexually abused, a woman being raped, a man or woman cheating on their spouse, a kid getting bullied at school, a suicide bomber making plotting his next heroic move, a little girl being sold in slavery, families being forced from their country being torn from their loved one. We all live at a certain level of numbness to make it in this life.

The lady in “Underwater” represents the problem of modern humanity. When nothing is sacred anymore, all is consumed, no matter how hard you try not to be, so we are all addicts struggling not to be controlled.

At the core, the drug addict isn’t running to drugs because he made a series of bad decisions. He runs to them because they have become the one thing that can provide relief from pain, pleasure, and an escape.

At the core, the porn addict doesn’t run to the computer screen or the bookstore because he/she has let his mind go too far. He runs to it because it’s giving him something that relieves him from the lack of intimacy, acceptance, and pleasure that this world promised, but failed to deliver.

At the core, the workaholic doesn’t work all the time because he/she is so in love with what she does. She works all the time because it gives her a sense of significance, acceptance, or the right kind of living.

The same can be said about the shopaholic, the Facebook addict, and the one who controls their eating, their relationships, or their children. At the heart of all of these addictions is a deep idol (a wanna be god) that drives us to satisfy “it”, a desire that has convinced us that “this” is the one thing that can fill our deep, empty wells.

As “holy-ones-of God”, our goal is to be addicted to Jesus, craving to live in his truth, which actually harmonizes us with reality. Apart from the reality that is found in Christ Jesus, everything else is a fake-counterfeit-reality, a fraudualent-directionless-desire, that leaves us upside-down-and-inside-out… underwater.