fragments on… living in creative tension

As the calendar changes, we often consider how we ourselves want to or are changing. Whether it is a new season or a new year, that brief moment of introspection causes to re-evaluate our self and our place in the world. “Calling” is what we pursue. Book after book discusses it, how to find it and live it. Blog after blog gives you enumerated lists to help you discover your calling.

I feel in such moments, when I am told how wonderful I am in God, and the great “calling” on my life, that I am attending the wedding dressed in rags. I am an imposter. Yet I strive. Hoping one day I shall simply pass over some threshold and – some how, some way – become what I am presently not, better than what I am. Do you feel the same? It makes me consider the Psalmist,

I have sunk into the mire of the deep, where there is no foothold. I have gone down to the watery depths; the flood overwhelms me. I am weary with crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, from looking for my God.

If so, I propose a different way of looking at the same. Let us choose no longer to become what we are not, rather to become who we are. Let us live in creative tension with our being, meaning, to live dynamically between who we are and what we experience ourselves to be. St. Paul told us our lives are hidden in Christ with God; St. John that we do not yet know what we will become, but, Paul again, we will know ourselves, and all things, fully when we see Jesus face to face.

The choice to live in creative tension with our being is recognize that the gap between our heavenly and earthly selves is bridgeable not simply by time and space but by an immediate working out of our salvation. In other words, his heavenly will can be done on earth – now. This choice also recognizes that we are what we are in Christ right now, presently. The gap is real, as far as experience is real, but it isn’t true. It takes not simply time, but a muscular working to close that gap.

Consider a woman, pregnant. She is a mother, in truth, but not yet in her experience. She lives in a creative tension. In time, she will give birth, but in truth she is already a mother, and the gap will close between who she is and her experience of who she is. Then, she will birth not only a child but a new identity for herself.

Consider also Jesus. In him, heavenly nature kissed earthly. They commingled so that one was not subsumed to the other. In him, it is on earth as it is in heaven. Perhaps we should pursue to be of similar stuff?

God the Father declared Jesus to be his son, and he was, according to nature, according to what was true. But he had to bear witness to this truth in his experience; the satan provoked him, “If you are the Son of God…”; the crowds taunted him to come down from the cross if he was the Son and a King. Jesus worked out the unity of who he was and his experience on the cross: muscles pushing him up to catch breaths, splintered wood digging into his back, forgiving his torturers, working out in harsh, bloody reality the truth he knew and had to experience – that he is the Son of God. The cross stands then as a bridging of the gap between God and man, between man and man, between man and himself, measured between bloodied wrists, head and feet.

So too, we must incarnate: we must let who we are in heaven be so on earth. Our heavenly and earthly selves must embrace. But as we see in childbirth, as we see in Jesus, working that out in our experience is costly. But in the economy of God whatever we give up as a cost we reap more in reward: a mother bears a child, Jesus bore his Church and a new creation.

So, what is our heavenly self like? How can the earthly unite with the heavenly? How do we work out that unity in harsh, cold reality of our present existence? And what will this new creature bear to the world?


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