My brain often struggles to wrap itself around paradoxes, around the notion that two totally contradictory set of facts can both be true at the same time. I struggle…. but it is even more challenging for people who are linear thinkers.
Our faith is plumb full of paradoxes, in fact the Sermon on the Mount is sometimes referred to as, “the Paradoxical Sermon.” “Blessed are the meek…for they shall inherit the Earth.” In our world, that is totally backwards, but only because we are the ones hanging upside down on the monkey bars, seeing everything backwards. “God’s ways are not our ways.” In His Kingdom, the last shall go first. Blessed are the poor in spirit.
“He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”
These are all paradoxes, counter intuitive, contrary to our own reason, contrary to what we see around us. Two sets of contradictory facts can both be true at the same time.
The quarantine, this upheaval in our lives, feels very strange and surreal sometimes, and I wrestle with yet another paradox, with two sets of contradictory facts that both seem to be true at the same time. The first set of facts suggests something is off, something is all fishy, something is not as it should be. Have our power mongering, alien lizard overlords trapped us on a forced march towards socialism, totalitarianism and a one world government? Is this the end of the world?
Perhaps. But I’ll just stick with the totally professional analysis of, “something is fishy.”
The other side of our coin suggests that we are also bearing witness to a totally unprecedented global act of unity and sacrificial love. That’s what we are doing, giving up our lives, sometimes our businesses, our income, our personal relationships with friends and families, our freedom. Many of us are now united in putting the needs of other people before our own. That really is totally unprecedented, a remarkable human endeavor I wouldn’t have believed was even possible if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. And of course, it’s all messy and imperfect, because people are still going to people. Just the same, I take note of the fact that there is some unity going on here, among people who were deeply divided just a few weeks ago.
Also, many of us have stepped right into the whole concept of sacrificial love, of putting the needs of our neighbor’s before our own. We suddenly seem to understand the significance of our human collectivism and shared vulnerabilities.
That is unprecedented and remarkable. We are bearing witness to one of the largest acts of global solidarity and brotherly love the world has ever seen. It sure ain’t perfect! I’m just saying, it’s real enough.
The only difference between these two opposing views is really just a matter of perception, of perspective. Which side of the coin are we looking at, at any given moment? They could totally both be true at the same time.
I write quite a bit about the significance of perception. It has a way of shaping our reality. Sometimes we have to take a leap of faith, trusting that what we can’t see is really there. And sometimes we have to take a leap of faith and trust that what we do see is really there. The Bible often speaks of having the eyes to see or the ears to hear. It isn’t enough to just have eyes, we must have the ability to use them to see the things we need to see.
Linear thinkers, facts, and concepts around absolute truth make me absolutely crazy, because they always fail to understand the value of subjective reality, of individual perceptions, and it’s impact on truth. Also, several years of fake news should have taught us that facts are so malleable as to be nearly unrecognizable sometimes and “truth” is often just for sale to the highest bidder.
What is so desperately needed within our faith is the ability to embrace paradoxes and to hold contradictory facts in tension. I quote Hebrews 11 all the time, the whole chapter really, but the first verse especially, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Absolute truth, observable reality, facts, evidence, human reason, these things alone just do not always tell the whole story, nor do they necessarily honor the Great Storyteller, the Author and Finisher of our faith.