Friends, am I the only one struggling with the notion that at times it seems the most consistent thing about life is it’s constant inconsistency? I guess you can place this statement under the heading “things that make me shake my head.” I have a very dear friend from Philadelphia and after years of not dating after a painful divorce, he finally met someone special. During the first three months of his dating things were magical and his girlfriend would often say “you are the man I have always dreamed of, God finally brought me the man I’ve been praying for.” But after three months of emotional highs and euphoric romance she recently broke up with him saying “if God intended me to be with you I would have more feelings of peace about it…” It came out the blue and my friend is scratching his head and seeking to heal his heart.
Several times in the past year I have received financial advice from a trusted adviser and the exact opposite of what he told me came true. I did not anticipate that the Stock Market in Japan, China, or Europe, or an over supply of oil, or a slight rise in interest rates could so dramatically affect the stability in our equities markets (our retirement accounts). I read somewhere “The broker said the stock was "poised to move." Silly me, I thought he meant up. This is yet another example of “things that make me shake my head.”
Isn’t it eerie how the inconsistencies keep us living our lives on the edge of our chairs. I find that along with INCONSISTENCIES are also an abundance of PARADOXES all around us. I suppose one of the things that troubles me the most about almost all forms of Fundamentalism, religious or otherwise is the degree to which it they seek to gloss over or minimize the notion of Paradox or Inconsistencies.
Paradox at its core involves two elements of truth or principle that seem to contradict but are both simultaneously true. “It was the best of times and it was the worst of times,” “all good leaders are servants” and the “more you learn, the more you realize how little you know” are all paradoxical statements. Much of the mystery and meaning, the comedy and the tragedy of life are based on paradox. Champions of Science are still trying to solve the paradoxes of physics, comedians make a living pointing out life’s everyday inconsistencies, and mystics from both the East and West recognize the power of paradox. In the writings and lives of the wise ones, paradox permeates.
Paradox is also woven like a thread through the world of Christianity. And perhaps one of the wisest realities is for us to freely embrace the reality of mystery, the clear and constant existence of paradox. Basic doctrines like the virgin birth, the trinity, imputation, righteousness by faith require us to embrace paradox. We cannot run from them; we can only find peace in embracing them. As one enlightened pundit expressed “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.”
Christian paradox, and life paradox, is alive and well, so why not be at peace about it. For instance Saint Francis pointed out “It is in giving that we receive, … and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.” One could argue theologically that in inconsistency and paradox God has His finest hour. Never did the obscene come so close to the holy as it did on Calvary. Never did the good in the world intertwine with the bad as it did on the cross…God on a cross. Humanity at its worst. Divinity at its best…
God is not stumped by an often evil inconsistent world. He doesn’t gasp in amazement at the depth of our faith or the depth of our failures. He fully knows the condition of this world…and loves it just the same. For just when we find a place where God would never be (like on a cross), we look again and there he is, in the flesh...this too is a Permeating Paradox.