Oct 21, 2011

The Both/And Tightrope

God wants me to be a tightrope walker.  It’s often quite frustrating.

See, I want to fully understand following Jesus and loving others; I want this life I’ve chosen to be fully understandable.  I want to work out the “if A then B, if C then D” flowchart of making choices that will glorify my Father and bless others.  I want to know the answers.  

The problem, I’m discovering, is that simple decisions and actions, the Bs and Ds, often don’t even exist.  It’s not “if A then B”… it’s “if A then Ħ."  And I don’t even know what Ħ is. Often, the answer to “Should I do this or this?” is “Yes.”  This complexity, and the tension that I wrestle with on a daily basis, I view as the tightrope of both/and.  Here are some examples…

  • Jesus was both fully God and fully man.  He wasn’t 50% God and 50% man.  He wasn’t sometimes God and sometimes man.  He was both.  This seeming paradox played out in his complete ability to be human… to feel joy, sorrow, betrayal, peace, hope, pain, anxiety, longing… and his complete ability to be in constant communion with his Father, to sacrifice himself for the sins of the world, and to defeat death.
  • Jesus was full of both grace and truth.  Jesus embodied love, which is not 50% grace and 50% truth, but 100% of both all the time.  I am called to abide in him, to function out of full-on agape.  This doesn’t mean to offer a hug and bite my tongue half of the time, while speaking the truth the other half.  It means to bring both grace and truth to my relationships all of the time. 
  • I am called to both die and live.  I’m called to deny myself, to take up my cross, and to follow Jesus.  Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Jesus’ sake will find it.  Jesus lived that he might die for us, conquering sin and death.  To live is Christ, and to die is gain. 
  • I am called both to need people and to depend on God as my source.  Rich, authentic community is integral to growing in our ability to give and receive love.  In relationships, I am called to encourage others, to walk with others, to rejoice with others, to weep with others, to deeply enjoy living life with others, and to open myself to the same from them.  And yet Jesus is the only friend closer than a brother.  God is the only one in whom I should place my trust and on whom I should depend.
  • The beatitudes, meaning ‘supreme blessedness’, convey the paradoxical desirability of sadness, sacrifice, and longing…

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

So how can my attitudes, words, and actions be both/ands?  How do I navigate being truthful and graceful at the same time, without compromising one?  How do I fully live as my unique self while dying to it?  How can I be open to both poverty and richness?  Mourning and comfort?  Longing and fullness?  Sorrow and joy?

If I’m honest, my response to the both/and tightrope is on peaceful days, “God, I guess this one’s up to you, because I can’t figure it out,” and on frustrating days, “God, #@)!(&#!$&*#@*!*()%)!@#$(&%^$!”

I am a crappy tightrope walker, and I lose my balance all the time, just like Peter.  I wish there wasn’t a tightrope, and I wish I could follow a flowchart.  And I think this points to my ultimate tension, the tug of war in my heart between trusting God and trusting myself.  If I trust his goodness… if I truly believe that past, present, and future, he desires and is working toward good for me… then I can find freedom in the both/and, knowing that God is holding the rope and the net and me.