A Tension to Manage or a Problem to Solve?

Do you know that some tensions are never meant to disappear?

Here are a few of the tensions we experience in life:

  • Relational tension. Human beings are imperfect, and so tensions will arise within friendships and marriages.
  • Work tension. At work we may discover that our bosses have different expectations of us than we do, or we may have a conflict with a co-worker.
  • Cultural and Social tension. Christ-like living is contrary to many of society’s norms; choosing Christ often means choosing conflict with our society. Artists sometimes have to choose between creating art they can sell and art that says something meaningful.
  • Parental tension. As parents we are called to first lead, train and discipline our children; friendship is secondary, although very important. Choosing to parent well often means choosing to create tension with our children for their own good.
  • Theological tension. God is sovereign, but bad stuff happens to good people. God has chosen a good path for us, but human beings have free will. Many issues in theological discussions involve tension.

Some of these tensions can be resolved.

  • Relational tension. Christ calls us to take the initiative in making peace with those who have sinned against us. We need to ask forgiveness from those we have wronged, and we need to confront those who have wronged us. In marriage spouses must constantly be checking to make certain they are speaking the same language and holding similar expectations of each other.
  • Work tension. If we have conflict with a co-worker we need to resolve it. If we discover that our expectations do not match those of our boss, we need to take action to bring our expectations into alignment.

Some of these tensions, however, cannot be resolved.

  • Marriage is the combination of two individual people with differing tastes and preferences. While hopefully a marrying couple has many of these in common, some differences will always exist. One may like beef and the other one chicken. One is a night owl and the other is a morning person.
  • As Christians we are called to engage culture and make an impact for Christ. Because culture has so many negative components, however, many Christians try to completely disengage from culture. I believe Christ’s call to be “in and not of” the world requires us to walk the difficult grey area of engaging culture while remaining firm in our beliefs and principles.
  • Parenting is tough. Being a friend and support to your children while disciplining and guiding them is a difficult tension to manage. As a father I want nothing more than to play with my kids and give them everything they want because I love them so much. Because I love them, however, I have to discipline them and train them.
  • God is a Spirit. Jesus revealed himself in the form of a man, but he was fully God as well as fully man. When we become Christians the Holy Spirit indwells us and gives us power to overcome the evil one. We are in a spiritual battle for the souls of people. The way to life is narrow and few find it. Those who truly receive Christ’s offer of salvation will spend eternity in heaven, and those who reject Christ will spend eternity in hell. Theology and the spiritual life is full of huge tensions, most of which are beyond our comprehension.

Deciding which issues are tensions to manage and which issues are problems we can solve is in itself a tension to manage.

Christ, however, enables us to experience his peace in every situation because his peace is based on him. Christ does not change. Christ was, is and will be forever the same. For that reason life with Christ is peace and joy, even in the midst of some of the hardest tensions life can throw at us.

Our goal, then, is not to resolve every tension, but to find peace and rest in Christ, who is the calm in the middle of every situation.

Are you trying to find peace by resolving unresolvable tensions, or are you finding peace in Christ, who does not change?

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What Fishing Teaches Us About Life

Lots of people fish; it’s how you fish that determines whether or not you will actually catch anything.  The same is true about life.  Lots of people are physically alive, but how you live will determine whether or not your life is actually full and meaningful.

Dad the FIshing Guide

I grew up rod-and-reel fishing with my dad.  Over the years we have fished for trout, walleye, bass, and recently, Alaskan sockeye salmon and deep-sea halibut.  Each fish differs in many respects:

  1. Diet
  2. Habitat
  3. Season
  4. How they engage the bait or lure

One thing never changes:  how you manage your line.

Early on dad drilled into my head the truth that you must always keep tension in the line; not too much or the fish will not be able to sufficiently swallow the bait, and not too loose or you will never know if something bites.  You have to keep it just right.

If the tension is right you will feel the nibbles and hits transmit through the line, up the rod, and to your hand like your rod and line are a giant antenna.

If the line tension is right you will be prepared to set the hook when the time comes.

The same is true with life.

You have to maintain a little tension; not too much or you will be anxiety-driven, but not too little or you will be apathetic and unresponsive.

Maintaining the just the right tension is called active waiting.  Active waiting has several characteristics:

  1. Peace.  You have ordered your life so that distractions and noise are balanced with sufficient refreshing time.  Personally I believe this requires significant time nurturing a relationship with the Creator of the universe.
  2. Attentiveness.  You are actively observing your life and experiences.
  3. Anticipation.  You expect opportunities to come your way.
  4. Engagement.  You recognize opportunities and take immediate action.
  5. Balance.  If your action fails you learn what you can and return to active waiting.  If your action succeeds you continue looking for the next step in the process.

Most of us say we want a life without tension, when that kind of life would be enormously unfulfilling.

A healthy life involves actively waiting for what God is going to bring your way and responding when the time comes.

Where in your life do you need to engage active waiting?