Thursday, May 5, 2016

Paradox and Balance

The last problem that we ought to have with the idea of balance is a biblical one: balance is just not the testimony of the Bible. 

Our God is a God of paradox, and paradox and balance simply do not go together. God does not say that sometimes, you are weak, and sometimes, you are strong. No, God says that when you are weak, then you are strong. This idea does not imply balance; it implies tension. You must be both things at once, not one and then the other. 

He says that if you want to be first, you must be last. He does not say that sometimes, you're first, and sometimes, you're last. No. You are both things at once - first and last. There is no balance in being two completely opposite things; there is only tension. 

God's best word to you is never, "You win some, you lose some." No - you win by losing. You gain your life by losing it. Again, there is no idea of balance inherent in this, only tension.

And it is not just these kinds of ideas where tension shows up plainly. Even more simple commands, simpler ideas that would, on the surface, seem to play into our idea of balance, contain not balance, but tension. Take God's command to observe the Sabbath. We often read this with balance on our minds - we must incorporate rest into our busy schedules. We must work and rest. Or in modern terms, we must work and play.

But that's not really the idea God has in mind with this. If it were true that we needed some sort of balance, then the whole Creation would rest on the Sabbath; everything would stop. But it doesn't. Only we do. The Sabbath rest is not meant to help us live in balance with our work; it is meant for us to live in tension with it. Because we may stop working, but the world doesn't stop. The earth still turns on its axis. The sun rises and sets. The moon pulls on the tides. The flowers grow. The grass grows. The birds sing. Our practice of Sabbath rest puts us in direct tension with a world that goes on without us.

It's not about balance.

God's desire for humanity is never that we would have a little bit of everything, or even enough of everything, or even the perfect balance of everything. God never says, "I have come to give you life, and life in perfect balance." No, His promise is that He has come to give us life, and life "abundant." There is no room in balance for abundance. The math just doesn't work.

Abundance is a tension. It's a tension because it does not matter how much we have on this side of heaven, our very existence - even in abundance - is set up against the gnawing ache of emptiness in each of our hearts that still longs for home. That waits for heaven. That has everything a human heart could desire but still feels the void of having less than it was created for (because of sin). This is tension at its finest.

And it is the life we are called to live.

We hold up balance as the ideal, as the thing we are all striving for in our lives. But balance has only ever been our idea; it's not God's. The testimonies of logic, Creation, and Scripture speak plainly to this truth. We weren't made for balance; we were made for tension. And it's not an easy thing. 

But it is beautiful. 

How? How can such a tortured life be beautiful? 

Stay tuned. 

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