on a holy tension

The other night we watched the college football national championship. Our friends poured in the front door, one after another, and poured drinks and scooped large bowls of chili that had been bubbling all day in the crock pot.

And then as the game wore on, as our beloved Tide started to roll backwards instead of forward, our friends trickled out the door, one after another, until just a few were left.

The last drive of the game was magical; not, sadly, for our team, but it was the type of pulsing suspense that had me taking shallow breaths and hiding under the blanket every time the ball was snapped … Price’s sounds would tell me how the play ended, and the silence that fell on the last play made me peek my head out just in time to see the white number next to Clemson on the screen tick up-up-up and over our score.

The game was over, we took deep breaths, we sighed at the disaster zone that was our kitchen counter, we turned off the lights and went upstairs.

Today as I flicked through twitter between meetings, I felt every vein in my body pulsing again.

I’m tired. I’m tired of baited breath and wondering who-hates-who today on twitter, and which side of the brewing battle over orthodoxy I’ll land on, and if my pure and idealistic reverence for journalism will meet its ugly demise in click-bait and/or the utter destruction of the first amendment.

I am terrified about tomorrow, and the next day and the next.

My anxiety has been spiking lately, and at night I draw deep breaths and watch my chest float the white comforter up and down. When that doesn’t work, I remind myself “I am not my anxiety, I have anxiety today," like one might have a stuffy nose or a particularly nasty headache because of the weather. And when that doesn’t work, I grab my phone and read by that I-know-it’s-awful-for-me blue light until my eyes are too heavy to stay open.

I am anxious about lots of things, some for here and some not. Some of it’s political, most personal. I am playing poker with 3 different versions of myself, each of us holding our hands close - waiting for the other to call a bluff and watch this whole carefully-constructed thing come tumbling down.

I sat on the couch and wept on Friday night, exhausted from the week and feeling more isolated than I ever have before - not personally, as Melanie, so much as by my beliefs, if that makes sense.

I believe in compassionate orthodoxy, but I’m not sure what that looks like in today’s Church and broader culture.

I cried because I’ve always been a Republican, but there’s certainly no room for me anymore in that party. I cried because I’m not a Democrat either, and when I look at the people running our country, I don’t see anyone that reflects me. And I didn’t cry because I need it to be different, but because it makes it hard. And most of all it strikes me that so many people have felt this way for so, so long under the worst of circumstances, and it breaks me wide open with empathy and heartache.

I cried because I'm a woman, and a wife and a mom and I work outside the home, and I'm in seminary, and all of those things together put me in a pretty small pool of people. None of them are easy on their own, and they certainly aren't easy all mixed together. But I didn't cry because I need it to be different, but just because it's hard.

It’s the same with theology, as I’m fumbling around to find my place in a world drenched with differing opinions, like it is always raining sideways with ideas and opinions that I can’t stay dry long enough to make up my own mind. But I know what I believe, and I know I love Jesus, and I know what Jesus said, and I know what Paul said, and I know what John said, and I know that those ideas aren’t always compatible with our increasingly postmodern society … and an increasingly pluralistic and left-of-orthodox Church. And I didn’t cry because I need it to be different, but because it makes it hard. 

It’s hard to look in the mirror and call my own bluff, to say — this is who I am, and what I believe, and I can’t hide behind 3 other hands of cards and drop the ones I need to depending on who I’m talking to or how I’m feeling. And it’s not that I need it to be different, it’s just that it’s hard. 

And I think maybe I'm learning a little about lament, about seeing the state of things and crying out because of the brokenness, but knowing at the same time that they aren't going to change - at least, not right now. And this isn't grief, because it's not a sharp pain, a loss. It is, I think, lament - which may be what happens as we get older, when we can hold lament and praise in a holy tension.

2016 was hard, but it was sharp and pointy, poking us uncomfortably and painfully at every turn. It was full of incidents that made us wince.

But what I'm left with is not a series of gashes and scars. It's more like a current that pulses through me. Lament is part of who I am now, and not because of any one thing, but because I see how hard life is and I carry that with me every day. And I hope this isn't coming off as privilege, or like I'm whining because it's hard. I promise it's not from that posture. It's not whining. It's aching. And I don't ache as much as a lot of people, but I do ache for those people. There's so much hurt and it feels like it's getting worse.

And yet, I carry it with a holy tension, balancing it with growing confidence in the only thing that can make it all this pain make sense - the belief that one day, all the sad things will come untrue.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.