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Living in the Tension

By Dan Baumgartner on
Dan Baumgartner
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Nov 03 in Musings
My dad died last weekend. We've known it was coming for the last year. And thanks to so many of you for your prayers and notes, they have been a great encouragement. His death, and our hurried trip to Seattle to be with my mom and siblings, left me with time to muse- in airports, on airplanes and on morning runs. The word that keeps coming up is...tension.
I don’t mean anxiety producing, heart attack inducing nervous tension, but rather the holding together of things that seem paradoxical or even antithetical. When I was younger, it felt like the goal of the game of life was to eliminate tension. Solve every problem, avoid the uncomfortable, eliminate risk and generally get your life locked down to neat, clean and peaceful. Relationships that turned messy were to be swapped out for more satisfying ones. Jobs, houses, family- everything was to be fixed nice and tidy. It seemed like the goal.
I no longer think that. In fact, I must say, if we give ourselves to creating the pristine life, we will be sadly disappointed. The truth is, working for a peaceful utopia (which often overlaps with the American dream) not only eliminates much of life’s rich fabric, but it runs counter to living in the Kingdom of God. The goal isn’t neat, clean and tension free. Rather, it is being available and open to the life God presents to us. That means we will somehow hold or at least juggle paradoxical things constantly- health and illness, rich and poor, friendships with difficult people, even death and life. We hold in tension the things that bring us great joy, and those that cause great grief. We lean into everything life gives us, embracing both the difficult and the celebratory because they are part of the same fabric.
Life with Christ means, by definition, living in tension. How could it not when we know from scripture that when we are weak, we are made strong? When we die to ourselves, we are really living? That all things can work together for good? The “good life” is not one with all tension, paradox, questions and mystery eliminated. The good life is the one where we recognize that there is absolutely nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. And so we live accordingly.
See you soon,
            Pastor Dan
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