Several years ago I moved three times in a year and a half. I followed my daughter and her husband up to Baltimore from Charlotte. When his new job didn’t work out, we moved back to Charlotte. I rented an apartment and then six months later, I bought a townhome and moved again. During this time and for a year afterward I was caught in this paradox: I felt totally held by God and, at the same time, I had no feeling of ground beneath my feet. So much had been shaken loose in me during the three moves, that I felt disoriented.
When I think of that time, I have decided that the two defining areas of my life, my soul and my mind/emotions were both engaged, each offering opposing interpretations, each equally valid, but neither was the complete story of my inner state of being. Paradox. When both are true, and neither one tells the whole story.
This was not the only time I have felt such contrasting states of being. At the beginning of this summer I had sent my book manuscript on the Exodus story off to the editor. It had taken me two years to write it. There was no sense of celebration in me only a flatness, no emotion at all. And I am enjoying an ever-deepening relationship with God. I have done a lot of healing work this summer through journaling and drawing and, at last, I feel restored to who I am in God. Again, a paradox defining me, revealing the whole of who I am.
Another paradox: certainty of faith and doubt can co-exist. Faith rests in our souls, but our minds will wonder. If we do not resist the doubts, if we entertain them, we might be led to a new understanding of Biblical truths and an opportunity to own our own faith, as the Lord would lead us to do. The beauty in this is that we let doubt stretch what we think beyond what we’ve been taught and let God lead us through the doubt to the ways He wants us to think about him. Faith is not meant to be static; it is dynamic as we live it.
Are we as faithful as we think we are? Are we growing into God? Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” [Matthew 11:15] Do we hear all that well? Do we see what is real or only what we expect to see? Do we allow God to write the Word on our hearts? Do we take the Word as the law for our life? In the explanation of the parable of the seed and sower in Mark 4:11ff, Jesus explains the different ways we take the word. We can hear the Word and forget it immediately. We can take great joy in the Word, but have no rootedness in it. We can hear and acknowledge the Word, but all our troubles distract us from benefiting from it. Or we can hear and see what the Word is telling us and let it change who we are day-to-day, bringing us deeper and deeper into our Father’s arms. How many of us Christians are in the latter category?
This a paradox, too: that we can hear the Word, believe it and not live it, not let it change who we are. It is the great challenge of the spiritual life—to hear and to believe and to live it. We can’t do this without God’s help, because we are living in this human body and mind which are the problem. So without God, without lifting up to Him everything in us that fails to live the Word, and without God showing us where we are still attached to the world’s ways, we are doomed to a lifeless existence in which there is no satisfaction, no fulfillment, no peace and little joy.
Dynamism is so evident in the universe and in us as the ability to change and evolve. If we still think the way we’ve always thought and do what we’ve always done, we are stagnant and half-dead. God wants to give us an abundant life. [John 10:10]
His desire for us takes us beyond mere belief in God into an active faith in which we are leaning on God in everything we say and do, in everything that we are. This means a lot of changes in us: in the way we think, in the healing of our pain and suffering, and in transforming us from our attachment to the world to attachment to God and His ways. And that takes a lot of prayerful lifting up of all the places in us that fall short of His commandments and of our attachment to the world’s ways.
Maybe we live in paradox until all our humanness is resolved at death and dissolved into God’s own being. I don’t know, but I suspect that at the end of our lives all these issues are finally laid to rest and there are no more paradoxical splits in us. We are just one with God, in God. Until then we need to learn to rest in the seemingly opposite states of souls and minds that our humanity brings forth in us. And to let God help us to resolve them.
Questions to ponder over the week: What paradox am I experiencing right now? Am I comfortable with the seeming conflict? Do I have to have everything just so in my life or am I willing to live with questions unanswered or paradoxes unresolved? What do I need to ask God about? Where do I need His help now? Or am I still trying to control my life?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who can live in paradox, who can move towards God and still honor our human nature. May we allow God to answer our prayers and needs in His own good timing. May we allow Him to lead our lives.
Announcing the arrival of my second book on Amazon: Exodus: Our Story, Too: From Slavery to the World to the Kingdom of God. It took me two years to research it and two years to write it. I hope you will read it and enjoy what the Holy Spirit led me to write about this experience of the Israelites and how it relates to our lives.
If you contributed your story to the writing of this book, whether I used it or not, I would happily refund $5.00 of the retail price. After you order the book just send me a message with your address, and I’ll send you a check.
Check out the archives of my blog going back to 2011 on this page.