Blog, God + Spirituality, Personal Growth + Wholeness

The Tension of Opposites (You’re a Crazy Alien!)

[Post from 15th June 2010]

As Christians, we are called to live a life of tension. For many of you, the term ‘tension’ immediately brought to mind the image of a tense person, anxiously striving to overcome the difficulties of life. This is not what I mean at all when I use the word ‘tension’. I am speaking of the kind of tension where you can thrive and blossom in the scorching desert, or walk uprightly even though surrounded by evil, or rejoice in the midst of tragedy, or ooze out genuine love, when all you get is hatred and slander in return. As Christians, this is the very invitation we are given by Christ Jesus, our example. He carried such a tension, and He did it with grace. Picture this: Christ, the Creator of the universe, and the rich owner of all things, became poor and humbly came to earth, choosing to serve the very ones He created.  THAT’S tension! Christ, the very Person of Love, came and loved those that hated Him, spat on Him and ultimately, killed Him. Now THAT’S tension! Having experienced the fulfillment of intimate communion with the Trinity in Heaven, Christ came and lived as a single man on earth. Again, THAT’S tension! In all that Christ said and did, He cut against the grain, He swam against the current, and He stepped away from the status quo crowd, and instead, invited others to follow Him. Whoa, THAT’S tension! Christ was intimately acquainted with tension. As His followers, we are also called to follow in His footsteps. We can try and fight it, or plug our ears to this truth, but there really is no way around it! If Christ did it, so must we.

I wrote about an example of this tension in one of my recent blogs here. This article described how we must have contentment in the present moment, while still longing for and believing for a different outcome to occur in the future. We are called to wait patiently (dare I say, to wait joyfully) while what we truly want is still as yet unseen… It is the tension of juggling seemingly opposite things: contentment and holy discontentment. It’s like saying, “I’m happy, but I’m not happy enough!” or “I’m satisfied, but I’m not fully satisfied!” It sounds a little crazy, if you ask me! But God does ask us to walk through life carrying this tension in balance.

A few years ago, I was introduced to the term, ‘the tension of opposites,’ as I read Mitch Albom’s book ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’. Here, he describes its meaning:

“Have I told you about the tension of opposites?” Morrie says, “Life is a series of pulls back and forth. You want to do one thing, but you are bound to do something else. Something hurts you, yet you know it shouldn’t. You take certain things for granted, even when you know you should never take anything for granted… A tension of opposites, like a pull on a rubber band. And most of us live somewhere in the middle… A wrestling match. You could describe life that way.”

Yes, the Christian life can often feel like two ends of a rubber band being pulled at once, or like a wrestling match! I’m sure you can relate to that analogy. I know I sure can! It sounds quite a lot like the Apostle Paul’s confessions in Romans 7:15-23: we desire to do one thing, but we keep getting pulled in another direction. It seems this tension and battle have been around since the beginning of time. I think it’s time we accept this as a reality of the Christian life, rather than shaking our fists at God and begging for Him to remove the tension. It is the very thing that shapes us and forges us into Christ’s likeness, IF we allow it to do its full work in us.

We can also see this tension in the Christian life when we look at the obvious differences in the value system of the world versus that of God’s Kingdom. The examples are plentiful:

  • If you want to be first, then go to the end of the line and be last. (Matt 20:16. Mark 10:31)
  • If you want to become great, be a servant. In other words, to go higher, you must go lower. (Matt 20:26)
  • You are rich when you are poor. (Matt 5:3. 2 Cor 8:9)
  • To hold on to what you cherish, you must let it go. (Matt 16:24-25)
  • To be wise in God’s eyes, you will look foolish in the world’s eyes. (1 Cor 1:27)
  • You’re supremely blessed when people ridicule you because of Christ. (Matt 5:11)
  • To truly live, you must lay your life down and die. (Matt 16:24-25. John 12:24-25)

It’s easy to see why the world looks at us like we are crazy people! And truth be told, we are! God’s Kingdom truly is upside down. It’s backwards! God’s way of doing things is so opposite to the ways of this world. Living for God is a surefire way to invite tension into your life. Hooray for us! So much of what we are called to do opposes the very spirit of this world. It involves having to completely unsubscribe to the world’s way of thinking and adopt an entirely new set of values and perspectives. No wonder the Bible refers to us as “aliens and foreigners” on this earth! (1 Peter 2:11)

There is an extreme tension between these two ‘worlds’. You cannot take hold of God’s Kingdom by merely coasting. It’s going to take a fight. There’s a war on the inside, and most opt out of the battle before they ever receive the benefits of victory. So many choose to give up the tension when breakthrough and transformation are just around the corner. Now THAT’S tragedy, in my opinion!

But you may be asking, ‘WHY would I even want to BEAR this tension? Is it even worth it? Why not avoid the pain that comes with it and just numb myself, and dull the ache? Is there ANY apparent benefit to living within this tension?’

I’ve certainly asked this question, as a single woman in my early 30’s, in regards to remaining sexually pure. I have had countless discussions with others who have also asked this same question, ‘What’s the point of staying sexually pure when God made me a sexual being?’ To the world, sexual abstinence for a grown adult is pure insanity. Every day we are inundated with messages to give in to our desires and satisfy our emotional and physical cravings. Basically, the world teaches us to throw off self-control, toss away our moral compass, run far from the tension, and give in to all our whims. Yes, we certainly ARE aliens when we say no to this approach and choose, instead, to live WITH the tension that comes with sexual abstinence and moral purity, especially in our supposed ‘sexual peak’ years. Yes, I repeat. We are aliens. Crazy people. It’s who we are.

But in all honesty, most Christians don’t look much like aliens. Instead, they look quite normal. And I don’t mean that as a compliment. Can you imagine the God of the Universe finally meeting you, and His only comment is, “Well, you lived a normal life.” Somehow, I don’t think He sees it as a compliment either. Sadly, this is how many Christians live: normal, safe lives, free of the tension we are called to carry in this lifetime.  After experiencing pain, confusion, or disappointment, many people decide to stop living this life of tension, throwing off restraint and, to put it bluntly, say, “To HELL with this tension! I can’t handle it anymore!” and another one bites the dust, joining the normal masses on the wide, easy path that leads to death (Matt 7:13-14). In the Bible, it speaks of the path that leads to eternal life as being a narrow road that few ever find. (Personally, I believe that many do find it, then they discover the cost of walking on it, and ultimately, they decide it’s not worth the pain. But that is just my personal opinion.)

With so many opting out of this tension, there are masses of people on earth that never see the benefit of persevering in the thick of the battle! It’s like aborted, unborn potential that never goes full term. It could also be likened to a long engagement or betrothal that never reaches its consummation in a marriage union. The tragic thing in all of this, is that we have multitudes subscribing to the easy way out, and in the end, they still lose everything. Which is the better way? Is it better to live WITH the tension of the Christian life IN THIS LIFETIME, and then live in eternal bliss and peace in THE ETERNAL AGE TO COME? Or is it better to take it easy in this lifetime, going with the flow instead of fighting against it IN THIS LIFETIME, but then eternally living in torment and tension IN THE ETERNAL AGE TO COME? The choice is yours: Live for this life, or live for the life to come. That’s really what this all comes down to.

We cannot take any of our earthly possessions or comforts with us after we die (Matt 6:19-21). All we can take with us is the eternal part within us, our spirit. And we take with us the fruit of the spirit, and all the victories that were won as we partnered with God in the midst of the tensions of this world and in the face of great opposition. So, for the Christian, there is inevitable tension that comes with walking the narrow path of the godly life, yet this way has eternal benefits that outlast this perishing world. I don’t know about you, but that’s deeply encouraging to me!

It is my prayer that we are both challenged and encouraged to accept the unavoidable and direly necessary tension that comes with walking in God’s ways while living in this day and age. May God’s powerful grace empower you with inner strength as you follow Christ and His example. And may each day find you looking more and more like the alien you were meant to be. You were called to this upside down, backwards, radical lifestyle in the midst of a normal, status quo world. If you remember anything about this blog, remember this: you’re a crazy alien!

Alison

Blog, God + Spirituality, Personal Growth + Wholeness

I have been going back through some personal journal entries from this past year, and I wanted to open my heart and share a couple short excerpts from them. I pray they are an encouragement to you.

Throughout this year, (well, in actuality, all of my life I have felt this, but specifically I am getting deep revelation on this in 2010), God has spoken deeply to my heart about how I am called to declare the “thriving garden of the Lord in the midst of a wilderness desert”. I see this picture all throughout Scripture, especially laced through the books of Jeremiah and Isaiah. This could seem a dream-like analogy, but I mean it in a very practical, down-to-earth, day-to-day way. I feel very much called of God to encourage myself and those around me to discover the truth — that in God you truly can thrive in the most challenging of life circumstances. Those places of deepest grief and desertion, can become the very place of deep and lasting joy and peace in God. It sounds so crazy and we can get so crushed under the burden of discouraging realities that we lose sight of the TRUE reality: God’s life flowing within us. In the midst of the pain and the hurt and the death, God is working His Life in us. This is not just fanciful, wishful thinking. This is truth. And so out of this growing revelation of this truth, came forth the cry of my heart earlier this year when I wrote,

“God, prepare a garden in my heart, in the middle of the desert. May You give me eyes to see as You do. Eyes that see a garden when all others only see a desert. May I be a crazy one, a blazing one, that creates gardens wherever I place my feet.” (Alison Lam).

That is the cry of my heart. And I pray that if you are one such deserted one, in the midst of the dry and weary wilderness, that you will become a garden. God has declared it. The God of the Universe, who knit you together in your mother’s womb and who created the very earth that you dwell on, HE desires to thrive and flourish your heart. Not just when things are lovely and free of conflict or difficulties, but IN THE MIDST of them. God, would You impart this truth to Your children. Plant gardens in hearts today. I came across another journal entry today where I was arguing with God about how I didn’t believe I had the strength to carry the tension of holding as yet unfulfilled promises in my heart in light of the fact that there was no real proof that they would ever come to pass. In my discouragement and weakness, I cried out to God, begging for Him to take this cup from me. The cup of painfully believing that His promises over my life are good and true, yet seeing no proof of this. It’s an interesting thing to experience the Almighty Calm of God while I throw up my fists to Him and throw my accusations His way. He is so ‘Other Than’. He is so unlike me, yet He holds the key to everything I am. It is such a paradox! A beautiful mystery. And it’s in these daily struggles that the Lord so beautifully comes and speaks a word and silences my arguments. Such a time came as I journaled about this months back …and God journaled back:

God, I can’t carry it.

Yes, you can.

No, I can’t. Please take it. I don’t want it anymore.

You must carry it. You were called to hope. You must carry it.

God, I can’t do this without Grace. I must have Grace or I will buckle.

She will be your daily companion. Grace be yours.

The fact that God said I was called to hope really punched me in the gut, when He spoke this. A black-and-white reminder of what I am called to. God has called me to hope. To be ‘The Hoping One’ and that God is most glorified in me when I maintain a hopeful position in my heart, in all areas of life. The moment I stop hoping, even if circumstances seem to agree that I should give up hope, the Lord’s heart is grieved, because one of God’s job descriptions for my life is to faithfully maintain hope against all hope. I am to be a crazy Hoper (if that’s even a word!). Sometimes I think God is more concerned about the position of our heart, than He is in the actual end results. Even if whatever I hoped in does not come to pass before I die, He will be pleased that I continued on in hope.

The same goes for those of you who are believing for healing. I believe He is more delighted when we maintain unwaivering faith and belief that God desires to heal us, than He is concerned about whether we get healed or not. We get so discouraged that we are not getting healed, and somehow condemn our faith as weak and failing, but God is on His throne ecstatic that we have faith, and continue to have faith, day after day! God is the one who can take care of the outcome and the actual healing happening, but we can just do our part and holding fast to faith and hope!

So, to all of us, who are painfully carrying the tension of hoping and believing for something that has not yet come, take courage and continue in it! Hope on! Keep believing by faith! You MUST NOT give up. This is the strong command of God. You must not give up.

May the empowering and strengthening Grace of our God be yours in full measure as you carry the weight of hope, day in and day out. He is faithful. He hears your cries. He sees the hopeful turning of your heart towards Him. Nothing is unseen in the Father’s eyes. Grace be with you.

In Him,

Alison

Blog, God + Spirituality, Personal Growth + Wholeness

So, I was cooking dinner just now in my humble little kitchen. Well, multi-tasking, essentially. You see, my mind always wanders as I cook. Classic Alison. Doing one thing, but my brain is somewhere else.

So, I was thinking about a certain area in my life that I have normally kept my fingerprints all over, for lack of trust, really. Especially in this area, I didn’t think God was truly trustworthy. I didn’t think that He was truly good. And I REALLY thought that what He deemed good, would be the very thing that I would deem BAD. I felt that whatever I deemed GOOD for my life, He would give me the EXACT OPPOSITE, almost just to spite me, to make me feel absolutely horrible. Well, I’m speaking about this in past-tense terms, because, to put it quite simply – I’m not afraid anymore.

As I thought of this area of my life, I just felt such o p e n n e s s for the Lord to do WHATEVER THE HECK HE WANTS TO DO. It’s almost as if in my heart, there is this holy “Bring-It-On” mentality within me now. I’m just not afraid of what He wants to do, or what He wants to give me. It’s like, finally, there is an un-warped perception of the reality of God’s Goodness sinking into this thick skull of mine.

B R I N G  I T  O N,  G O D. I’m not afraid of You. I’m not afraid of what You want to give me.
It’s like I hold this secret deep within the very root system of my heart that whispers to me, ‘He is good. He is so very good. He wants to give you good things. He loves to give you good things’. Truth be told, I can’t help but believe it now. It’s just the way it is now. I just believe it now. God seems to have done a miracle in the foundation and soil of my heart, ‘cos I certainly didn’t make this happen. The truth is just sticking to me like a pesky little glue gun. It’s just growing, like a big oak tree that’s not going anywhere. Deal with it, Ali. Accept this new reality, Ali. You really can trust God, Ali!

Things I feared He would do in this area of my life, I’m just not afraid of anymore. Somehow, if He wills it, it is the best thing for me. Who am I to withhold my trust from Him?

U N F L I N C H I N G  T R U S T. Trust in God that doesn’t flinch when thinking of offering up all areas of my life to Him. Unflinching. No wincing when flinging wide the door of my heart for Him to come in and take hold of and stake His claim on. The Goodness of God has trampled all over the dark pockets of my heart that once trembled at the thought of letting Him get His hands on.

Ha!

God, do whatever the heck You wanna do with my life – because if You’re in charge, it’s going to end well, and go well for me. I’m not afraid. Bring it on. Lay all YOUR will upon me. Lay all YOUR dreams upon me. Lay all YOUR desires upon me. May I carry them with a light, unburdened heart. And may I receive them with a soft, open heart, for You are, quite simply, GOOD.

Now, time to eat dinner…

Blog, News + Updates, Personal Growth + Wholeness

Dwelling and Not Running [UPDATE]

[Post from 19th October 2010]

“I hang my keys, purse and coat on antlers every day.”

Yes, this is a true statement. This is quite possibly THE best thing about my flat (apartment). When I first moved into this place in August, I told my landlords I’d be away for 2 weeks and it would be great if I could get a coat-rack… Well I came back in September and I had a coat rack, but not just any coat-rack. I had a real antlers coat-rack! I laughed out loud the first time I saw it. I thought, ‘Are they serious?!’ …which then evolved into, ‘Well, this could be cool. Not everyone can say that they have antlers for a coat-rack. Might as well embrace it!’ And, so I have. So now, every time I have someone visit, I show off this fantastic decorative home element. How’s that for a neat story to begin my update with?!

Home Is Where the Heart of Jesus Is

I love my home here in New Zealand. I sense so deeply that Jesus Christ has made His home here with me too. Does anyone know the peace that floods the soul when you just KNOW that God is dwelling with you? Well, if you have not experienced this, I pray that this becomes your experience. Today, I pray that God visits you in the very place that you live. Just invite Him in, and make space for Him in your life, and in your actual physical living space. He doesn’t just want to be a visitor – He wants to move in. If you don’t believe me, here’s the proof from His very lips:

Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:23)

I have come to such a deep contentment with living on my own. I can’t really put into words how much I enjoy it. It isn’t to try and hide from life, or hide in shame from others, or to “run away from this world”. It has nothing to do with any of these things. It has everything to do with the fact that Continue Reading