Bryan, Philip, Steven, and I passed the morning like most mornings – in a blur of household chores and schoolwork. Homeschooling our three boys, while so very rewarding, could also be physically demanding and mentally taxing. Sometimes I made time to eat breakfast, but on this day I subsisted on one slice of bread and Diet Coke all morning. By eleven-thirty, my brain was toast.
While the boys shifted their focus to memorizing Bible verses for their Bible club that evening, I went to the kitchen to start lunch.
I should have made mine first.
My sister and her girls stopped in to join us, so we visited while I began foraging in the kitchen for sandwich fixings. After several minutes, Bryan meandered out to help. I couldn’t find the peanut butter, so he grabbed a chair and began digging through the cupboard to look. I was oblivious to him as I rummaged through the refrigerator herding mayonnaise, tuna, jelly, and relish into my arms to form a grand assembly line.
Turning around to see Bryan stretching on his tiptoes to reach the peanut butter, my mouth erupted before my protein-depleted brain had time to organize.
“Sit down when you’re standing on that chair!”
Instantaneous confusion. Desperate to obey, Bryan first squatted to sit, then rose to stand. Squatted, rose, squatted again.
My sister burst into laughter.
“Do you know what you just said?” she howled in hysterics at me.
“Yeah, I know what I said,” I mindlessly defended. “I said to be careful when you’re standing on a chair.”
“Look at him!” she said as she came over and hugged Bryan’s gallant effort to try and please his mother.
“What is he supposed to do? Is he supposed to stand or sit when he’s standing on the chair?” Sandi made no attempt to soften my stupidity. She did, however, make me sit down and eat. I think that helped, but after realizing what I actually said, I don’t remember much else from that day. My brain had gone to Bolivia.
“Sit down when you’re standing on that chair!” There it was – the dumbest thing I’ve ever said. Well, so far anyway.
What was my sweet son supposed to do? He tried to please me. He tried to obey; he just wasn’t sure exactly what I expected from him.
Do you ever feel like God expects things from you, but you’re not sure how to please him? Have you ever felt that God has given you mutually exclusive instructions that make your obedience impossible?
I received a number of e-mails after my last blog entry entitled, Beautiful Dissonance, from those struggling with the disharmony of Christian paradoxes. Balancing confident faith in the face of irreconcilable circumstances is difficult, but there are a host of references in Scripture where we are called to embrace just such seemingly opposed propositions at once.
If you missed them, here are a few I listed in that blog entry:
To live, I must die
To save my life, I must lose it
To become the greatest, I must become the servant
So which is it? Do I live, or do I die? Do I save or lose, lead or follow, stand or sit?
Scripture says in 1 Corinthians 14: 33, “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” (NASB)
Confusion is not one of God’s hallmarks, so if I’m confused about what God is asking of me, I need to stop and determine what’s going on. I immediately need to go to James 1:5-6 which says, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.” (NASB)
At some point in my walk with Jesus, I realized that he knows more than I know, sees more than I see, and has a bigger picture that includes more than just me. If I am confused or disoriented, I need to defer to his wisdom and trust that he will keep me through the paradox.
I first read what became my favorite poem more than thirty years ago. It was written by an anonymous Puritan writer and is entitled, “The Valley of Vision.” The poem settled once and for all that low level rumbling I used to get when I’d find myself stretched between two opposing propositions from the Lord. Now I look forward to it because I get to learn new and fascinating things about Jesus!
The Valley of Vision
“LORD HIGH AND HOLY, MEEK AND LOWLY,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to posses all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;
Let me find thy light in my darkness,
thy life in my death,
thy joy in my sorrow,
thy grace in my sin,
thy riches in my poverty,
thy glory in my valley.”
God does not set before us mutually exclusive and impossible contradictions just to frustrate us. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” (NASB)
God knows more than I. Clearly.
God uses the paradox to teach me about himself and my relationship to him and my world, but never to frustrate or discourage me.
As long as God is the “conductor” of my life’s symphony, I can live in the unresolved. I’m okay with it.
© Copyright, 2012 by Donna Tallman.