All week, I've been trying to break down the myth of the ideal of balance in our lives. Balance, as we know it, faces three major problems: a logical problem, a creational problem, and a Scriptural problem. God's idea for His world, and for His people, was never balance; it was always tension.
But tension isn't easy.
Balance gives us this amazing sense of security. It's a false security, but security nonetheless. Balance lets us become "centered," finding stable ground in one place or another on which to stand. It gives us the illusion that our lives are steady, that there's a place to set our feet down. But balance leaves us jumping from one end of the scales to the other. It leaves us in perpetual motion. Although it feels centered and well, balance never settles in. It never settles down. It can't. Because it is always trying to hold two things together.
Tension has no such illusions. Although when we talk about tension, we talk about the necessity of embracing two opposing ideas at the same time (first and last, losing a life to save it, weak and strong), the truth is not so clean and pretty. True tension is not holding two opposing ideas together.
Tension is two opposing ideas tearing you apart.
In some of life's most difficult and beautiful moments, we understand this well. Take, for example, the experience of grief. Grief is inherently an experience of tension. On one hand, we are tremendously saddened by the loss of someone or something we care about, someone or something that has played a tremendous role in our lives. We cannot help but feel the emptiness of grief. At the same time, most of our funerals are no longer sad occasions; they are celebrations of life. We rejoice that we have known this person, or this thing, at all. We reflect on the great addition this person/thing has made to our lives. We laugh. We tell stories. We share our memories. And for awhile, it takes away the sting of loss, though it never quite soothes it.
Try as we might, we can never hold these two ideas together. We cannot reconcile the agony of loss and the celebration of blessing. It doesn't work out. Our minds can't wrap around it, and our hearts only jump back and forth between the two extremes. But these two ideas can hold us. In tension, they tear on us equally and give us the full range of grief as it must be in this fallen world. And this is but one example of what tension really looks like in our lives.
Here is another: the Cross.
The Cross is the epitome of what tension looks like. A cruel and brutal form of punishment, the Cross works by drawing its victim out to such a degree that the very strain in his own body is what holds him there. When Christ laid out on the Cross, His hands and feet to be nailed, He was embracing the tension in our world to its most extreme degree. His right hand stretched out toward one horizon; His left, toward the other. As His hands reached for both the east and the west, His body was lifted up and held there in place by the strain of being able to truly reach neither.
This was no balance. His feet had nothing to stand on. He did not, though He was raised plumb with the Cross, feel "centered" in the very least. He did not feel a certain stability or steadiness in His life by being equally stretched both left and right. How absurd! The Cross was no comfort of "balance." It was pure, agonizing tension - the same tension that defines our very existence. The same tension that is the testimony of the world. The testimony of creation. The testimony of the Scriptures.
The testimony of our Lord.
But no, it's not easy. It's not pretty. It's not what we imagined our lives would be, but if we really think about it, our lives have never been anything else. They've always been tension; balance has always been our attempt to get out of it. Balance has always been our scheme. It's always been our device. We feel the way that the world is tearing at us. We feel the two opposing ideas holding onto us, and we long to hold something of our own. So we choose balance, and we feel more torn than ever.
Our challenge, our joy is to learn to live in the tension. Because it really is beautiful.
Just look at Calvary.