It’s been a while since I’ve written anything substantial here, at least it feels like that to me. Part of that has been due to this season with so much going on, preparation for this thing or that thing, involvement with the kids, being consumed by work. It’s been hard for me to find space to breathe lately and I feel like I’ve been running and running, but I can always find time to write.
I guess that part of the problem is there have been some things weighing on my mind lately. I continue to look around me and see or experience conflict. Ironically, I’ve been reviewing a book for a publisher that deals with that very issue. I snickered to myself when it came in the mail a few weeks ago. It was one of those moments where I was like, “Did I really agree to review this? What was I thinking?”
As I get older, I realize just how much of life is living in tension. I’ve said before that tension can be a very good thing when it’s used properly. It can lead to growth when we use it for our good. At the same time, as an engineer, I know that tension can lead to failure and destruction. Too much tension not applied properly or without any relief can be deadly and detrimental to moving forward.
In the world of social media, I find myself blessed to have a wide array of friends from all of my various walks of life. Childhood friends, high school friends, college friends, Asheville friends, Richmond friends, camp friends, seminary friends, and probably many more. It’s always amusing to see the diversity there and try to remember the ways that I originally connected with these people to begin with.
In the midst of the diversity, not only culturally but ideologically and even theologically, it’s sometimes hard to ride that tension. I’ve never been a big fan of dropping electronic grenades, you know, leaving comments out there that do nothing to promote conversation or invite dialogue. I would much rather engage in a conversation with someone (even if it has to be done digitally) to try to work through the tension.
I’m grateful for the many times that people have engaged me in areas where they disagree with something that I’ve written or said. Those times have been among the most memorable, beneficial, and growing for me personally. I’m grateful that people thought highly enough of me that they could come at me with something. I know that I’ve not always handled myself impeccably, but I’ve tried to exercise grace as much as possible along the journey.
The chasm between those with differing world views has seemed to grow wider and wider, which is not unexpected. You begin to learn and understand the “safe zones” where you can tread without fear of offense or extreme tension. Living in the commonalities can propel relationships to a certain level and in the social media world, that can keep you going for a while.
But what happens when the chasm begins to grow for those with similar worldviews, or at least a claim to similar world views? What happens when you find out that your definitions don’t match the definitions of others who consider themselves to espouse the same system of beliefs that you espouse?
All too often, my own experience has seen people move to resolve their own tensions in these situations as quickly as possible. Usually, it’s a line in the sand, it’s a black and white statement that clearly divides rather than unites. There is no dialogue, there are just harsh statements that don’t invite conversation but rather ostracize and inflame. Ironic that in an effort to resolve tensions they usually end up more inflamed.
The place where I have been in recent days is that tension of not knowing what to say, of how to respond or react, of how to engage with grace and love. I constantly ask myself the question, “What am I missing?” It seems like human nature to assume that the other person is always wrong and we’re right, the antithesis is too humble, right? So, I try to ask myself more questions, to explore what I know, to look at things from a different perspective again.
In the waiting time, in the tension, my heart drops. I feel the tension, I feel the divide, the chasm, growing ever wider, separating us, preventing us from seeing eye to eye.
At the end of the day, we may simply agree to disagree. I’ve struggled with that as well. How do relationships survive when we come to that conclusion? Sure, they may fair better than those with deep and dark dividing lines, but it seems that those agreements on our disagreements still change the relationship, they still do something deep down. I don’t know what it is, I could probably figure it out if I really stopped to think about it, but dealing with the tension isn’t comfortable or cozy. Sometimes it feels like being on the bomb squad, just waiting for the moment when something might blow up in your face.
I constantly remind myself of the grace that has been meted out on my behalf. Especially during this Lenten season where we are moving towards something, moving towards a resolution of sorts. Even in that resolution though, there is still tension. The Apostle Paul spoke of the now and not yet and we feel the tension that exists between what is and what will be. Some (or most) would rather one or the other and refuse to live in that tension. I probably ping-pong between the two options more than I would like to admit.
But grace surprises us. Grace offends us. Grace meets us where we are but never leaves us there, at least not if we respond properly to it. Grace moves us along the journey towards betterment, not in ourselves, but through the power of the Holy Spirit.
I’m grateful for grace. It helps me when I fail to embrace the tension in these situations.
In the meantime, I’ll continue to ask the questions, I’ll continue to wonder what I might be missing, I’ll continue to wonder why we can’t see eye to eye. Yes, it might affect my relationships, but I realize that now I only see in part whereas one day I will see face to face. Full redemption, restoration, and renewal will bring with it a lot of “ a ha” moments, I suspect. Until then, I’ll embrace grace as my friend.