Many of you will wonder at the title of this post. Tension, a gift? I, myself, am even puzzled by it. It is a statement only my faith believes because my heart and head are physically pained by tension. But I've been feeling that physical burning in my chest a lot lately, and no, it isn't heartburn.
There is so much going on around us. We have the presidential election coming up. LGBT marriage and rights are in the news almost daily. The #BlackLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter movements seem to be at odds. What Christians should be allowed to do and think is constantly changing. And I am feeling more and more lost.
I feel lost because I don't know what I believe about many of these issues anymore. I grew up and still live in this very small, rural, non-diverse town. I do love living here. I love the slow pace and that people know me. I don't have to be afraid of someone walking on the sidewalk past me. Many of my views have been shaped by this community and family, but these same views seem to be under attack lately.
And I don't mean just under attack by others. I myself am starting to question my views on certain issues. This past year or so, as I've started staying home and blogging, I've been introduced to so many new women and views via blogs, podcasts, and The Influence Network and all of this is starting to make me wonder. There are women that I started to follow that are women of the Word and they make me feel encouraged in my faith, but when it comes to race or sexuality, I don't agree with all of their views or they challenge me to think about what I truly believe and why I believe the things I do.
I'm going to try to be pretty transparent in this next part, but before I do, I must implore you to read the following as the honest dialogue that it is. I'm in no way trying to be hateful and prejudice. I'm trying to share the struggle that has been taking place in my heart in a hope of increasing honest, helpful, and healing dialogue.
My husband and I met and started dating in high school. We have always talked about the possibility of adoption. To me, that always felt like it meant we would end up being a multi-racial family because most of the families that I know that have adopted are multi-racial. But it was after Beyonce's half-time show and ensuing anger, that I really started to think of what the implications of possibly mothering black children would mean for myself and those children. Another thing you need to know to fully understand my viewpoint is that my family is full of military men and my father is a police officer. The video of Beyonce's Formation song, outraged me as the daughter of an officer. The men and women I know on the force, are good people. I have never seen any of them be racially discriminatory. But I started to wonder, "Would I need to tell my kids to be afraid if they were black?" "Am I being naive to think that if I love a child as my own that their skin color won't matter to those around me?"
"Messiness is what happens when you try to live out God's perfect grace as a flawed person in a flawed world." -Caleb Kaltenbach, Messy Grace
That night, I reached out to a Christian blogger that is white and is raising black children. And, in an all to too quick message on Instagram, I am sure that I completely offended her. It was not my intent to do so. I was in tears and felt that uncomfortable tension in my chest and I really just wanted someone to tell me the answer. I got impatient and didn't pray first or really think through my message. I have since emailed and apologized profusely with no response, which is probably understandable. But ever since that night, I have started to question many of my views and have tried to begin educating myself on differing viewpoints.
To be honest, that feels lonely and somewhat like a betrayal. Why? I am finding that I don't completely agree with some of my community's and family's long-held views anymore. After doing some research into Black Lives Matter, they make some valid points. Now, I don't agree with everything they stand for or even all of their tactics, but even agreeing a small bit feels like a betrayal to my dad's life as a police officer. At the same time, I find that I don't totally agree with some of the Christian women that I follow on blogs or social media. One minute I can be using all of the praise hands emojis on their status and the next I'm wondering if we can both consider ourselves Christians if our viewpoints are so polar opposite. Obviously one of us has to be wrong, right? In his book Messy Grace, Caleb Kaltenbach describes how we must live in a tension between grace and truth. We must show each other grace, but we must not forget the truth. He illustrates this point of grace and truth by demonstrating Jesus's actions in John 8 when he saved the adulterous woman from being stoned to death. Jesus didn't save her and then say, "It's all good. Go back to what you were doing." No. He saved her despite her past failings (grace) and then said, "Then neither do I condemn you. [...] Go now and leave your your life of sin," (John 8:11 NIV). Kaltenbach states that, "Love is the tension of grace and truth," and that, "Having the mind-set that you've got it together and everyone else is lacking is a fast track to being a grace failure." I don't have it all together, and I'm trying to stop pretending I do. So I don't have to agree with everything other people do. I'm sure that they don't agree with everything I do. But I can show grace and I can dig in deep into the Word and try to live truth.
"When we as Christians have an us-versus-them mentality, it creates a mind-set that one side is right and 'those people' on the other side are our enemies." -Caleb Kaltenbach, Messy Grace
I've been terrified of this tension in my life, and even more terrified of sharing it with you. But when I read Hayley Morgan's words in Wild and Free, "I feared the discomfort more than I believed in God's power, and it was crippling me spiritually. [...] The thing is God is A-OK with discomfort and conflict; in fact, He confronts us all the time to get us to the point of repentance and reconciliation," I knew that, despite the comments that I could receive from readers or even family, that I had to share what God has been laying on my heart for months now.
I wish that I could tell you how I "got over" this, but this tension isn't going away. This isn't a "how I fixed it" post. I'm in the midst of all of this now. I haven't solved anything and I know that this post won't fix the discord in our country. I simply am learning that tension, that burning feeling in our chests, that is the feeling of God at the potter's wheel. God does not mold us and us not feel the work going on. Tension is the equivalent to spiritual growing pains. I'm learning to try to be grateful for the gift God is giving me by transforming me.
"There is tension in tolerance, but the amazing news is that our Father thrives in human tension." -Jess Connolly, Wild and Free
UPDATE: The day after this post went live, the blogger that I quickly messaged got back to me. Turns out, she had never even seen my message on Instagram and she was so nice. God works in mysterious ways.