Balance vs. Tension

When first exposed to Ecclesiastes, I was studying it with a group of close and trusted brothers. We were all fully enthralled by chapter 3; which opens with “A time for everything.” Spawned from my own life experiences I opened our first discussion on it talking about the importance of balance in our lives, using this passage as evidence.

However, my brother Nate disagreed. At first I was ready for argument, but instead I found enlightenment. He explained that balance is not the same as “tension,” and tension is what our lives consist of.

We are not scales rocking from one side to the other constantly trying to maintain a state of consistency (although it may feel that way). What really must happen is that we must allow ourselves to be pulled equally in all directions.

We must be forgiving and just.
We must laugh and weep.
We must both live and die.
We must be humble and confident.
We must plant and harvest.
We must exert and rest.
We must encourage and challenge.
We must  be silent and speak.
We must  be stable and fluid.
We must love and hate.
We must fight and sacrifice.

I could write about any one of these conflicts/tensions and how they have affected my own life, but the one that is most prominent at this time is the one involving stability and fluidity.

Two years ago I spent a summer living, teaching, and learning in St. Louis. It was the farthest I had lived from my parent’s home for any significant amount of time. It was exciting, engaging, tiring, and fulfilling. For the last two summers I lived back in my parent’s basement. I struggled with a loss of worth, despite my decisions to do so freely. I had opportunities to return to the city and people I loved, but chose my hometown instead. For whatever reason, I believed it was necessary.

Just before I left to move to Texas I was confronted and enlightened by the idea of stability. Reading from Shane Claiborne and John Perkins’ book “Follow Me to Freedom,” it became apparent that like most life circumstances, you can’t choose where your hometown is. God had placed me there for whatever reason, and it was my opportunity/calling to excel there (whether I liked it or not).

Reading through John the other day I ran across a verse that reignited this tension. A verse that describes my life before the point of understanding stability. John 3:8 reads, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” I am usually in a constant state of discomfort. I am never satisfied with the way things are. It sounds bleak, but in my own defense it is a hopeful dissatisfaction. I long for the day of perfection and I’m willing to work towards it, but I never thought it could be a negative attribute until confronted by the idea of stability by an ex-girlfriend (honestly, when it was brought up I thought she was crazy, but have since come around).

Given Jesus’ and Paul’s examples of constant movement, their words about forsaking everything for the kingdom, and my own internal urgings; I struggle with the idea of stability. Every time stability starts to look appealing in my heart, something rises up and snatches it away.

Just when I started enjoying Hudson, Mankato took me away. When I started enjoying Mankato, St. Louis took me away. When I started enjoying St. Louis, Mankato took me back, and when I started enjoying Mankato again, Hudson completed the circle.

Now I find myself in a new city, surrounded by new people, and in a new stage of life. It is difficult, but I’m enjoying it as much as anything else in my life. My heart is being stolen again. I still don’t know what is in store, but I am confident that in this tension, God is at work within me.

I apologize for the lack of a “happy ending” or a “concluding statement” to this post, but I hope you find the same joy in your story as I am finding in watching mine unfold.


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