I am learning in my life to let go of the apparent contradictions; this I believe is the result of my ability to let go of theological paradoxes, which has in turn created a space where I can let go of paradoxes in my own life. Allow me to develop this a little further.
So much rational effort has been put into the creation of systematic theologies that have attempted to explain the apparent paradoxes in our human experience with God, the Biblical accounts that seem to contradict each other and statements of dogmas that declare, in an absolutist way, their definiteness. A great example of paradox are the arguments that exist between grace and works, as we see apparent contradictions in the Epistles wrestling with God’s sovereignty and our free will. These two divergent ideas have literally split the church and caused wars. Yet, after all the wrangling, the paradox persists.
What if the paradoxes in my life, no matter how long or hard I wrangle with, persist? And what if, like these theological issues contain some true aspect of our experience of God, what if my issues and my experiences offer some divergent truths as well?
Let me be a little more personal. One of my greatest fears has been the nagging anxiety that someone might discover I am unintelligent or dumb. And yet, there is another portion of me that knows I am very intelligent, to the point that some aspects of my life might even crest on the realms of brilliance – which leads to another paradox.
Some have suggested I have a terrible ego. And others have said I am an incredibly humble man. The truth is, in me, I relate to both. I wonder if it’s possible to find God and truths on both sides of the paradox? And I wonder if God invites us into the “both, and” of our existence through all of the apparent paradoxes of the Scriptures and our ideas about God. That in some way, all of our assessments are incomplete, both of ourselves and others, and of God; and in that incompleteness, in the inability to fully resolve the contradictions, there we can find the very free space of love and faith for ourselves, from God, with others – because everything that is a part of us belongs.
So here’s an invitation: reflect for a moment on the paradoxes of your experience, your life, your faith, your relationships. Perhaps the effort to resolve these contradictions has been wasted… maybe the effort should be directed towards acceptance? To accept what is. Just as I believe the paradoxes of God invites us to accept God on God’s terms. Our paradoxes help us to accept ourselves as we are. Can you accept that? And can you resist the urge to ask the less helpful question, “How do I fix that?”