Imagine you were in the middle of a high wire balancing act. You are walking across the wire and all of a sudden someone decides to disconnect one of the sides. All of the tension that was in the wire disappears and you’re left with either two choices fall or cling to the side of the wire that is still connected. Now many of us will never walk across a high wire, I for certain know that I won’t, but I do believe that we all face situations that require tension on a daily basis.
Life is full of tension. We all face it even if we don’t all face the same tensions. Some of us face the tension between work and family. Other it may be the tensions between friends and romantic relationships. It may even be simple things like the tension between cleaning and having fun. We need these tensions, maybe one will pull tighter than the other at times, but we still need the tension. Yet, it seems that so many people want to eliminate this tension.
When we try to eliminate tension we pull all the slack one direction and fail to realize that we may need both directions more than we realize. I think this can be connected with my first observation, because most likely we’re going to try to eliminate the tension by saying that the way that comes easiest to us is the way things should be. So if we tend to be serious we then think that most people should be serious rather than maintain the tension between humor and seriousness.
Try as we might to eliminate the tension, we can’t really do it. There is a time for humor and a time to be serious. Those who are always serious and those who you couldn’t get a serious thought out if you paid them aren’t admirable models to me. Personally, I think we need to be able to have a sense of humor and laugh at ourselves while also able to talk seriously about serious issues. Again their may be times that one needs to take priority over the other, but that isn’t eliminating the tension, but learning to prioritize it (which will be what I talk about next post).
Now this doesn’t only take place in the daily activities of life that everyone does, but this tension is also needed in matters of faith. To me the Bible is full of tension and ideas that may seem to be pulling in two different directions, but at the same time are both still needed. One I remember hearing about a lot in college was predestination and free will. If we strongly believe in predestination we’ll minimize free will or vice versa and remove the tension that the Bible seems all too comfortable leaving in place.
Maybe to me balance is being able to look at life more often with a both/and mindset rather than an either/or. Not that there isn’t a place for the either/or but that when it comes to a number of issues a both/and is much better. We need a way of doing life that has both humor and seriousness, laughing and mourning, happiness and sadness, and not just one or the other. There are tension between these ideas and often you can’t be both at exactly the same time, but it is understanding that there is a place in life for such feelings and actions.
As a Christian this more happens with minor doctrinal debates that people want to make major. Like the debate I mentioned earlier maybe we need a system that somehow includes predestination and human choice, because both are presented in the Bible. Even if this is something that we can’t get our heads around easily. Instead of debating over hymns or contemporary, maybe churches need to say we need both the old songs of the faith and the ones being written today. I could go on and on, but hopefully you get my point.
Now as I said before it’s not that there isn’t a place for either/or situations. I mean as a Christian I present one, the idea of following Christ over following other gods or religious systems. Clearly there are times for holding to clear cut beliefs, but even in those cases I think we need to realize the existence of those with other beliefs and recognize the tension that is there. This leads to the tension of how to be loving and truthful to those around us. How do we truly love people that believe different things than us, but also present what we believe to be true? Many have wrestled with that tension, I’m not sure many have gotten it right, but we still need to wrestle.
This to me is an important part of balance. You can’t balance on a high wire without the tension. You can’t balance a scale without counter-weight. To me it is simply impossible to have balance if you don’t have tension in your life and faith. No doubt that tension can feel stressful and lead to real struggles, but to me that is where balance is found. This is again why I think that balance isn’t perfection, instead it is a constant struggle with tension and messiness that doesn’t always get things right, but tries to deal with the realities of life and faith.
What do you think? Do you feel that tension is a helpful thing to balance? Do you think that the idea of tension is necessary for a balanced life? Let me know what you think in the comments.