Recently I’ve been meditating on the concept of living in tension. Not tension as in anxiety, but as in an “in-between” or “balance”. …but not balance without movement. I’m imagining a teeter-totter that goes back and forth, never stopping completely parallel to the ground. Or a tug-of-war where the cloth tied on the rope signifying the middle goes back and forth over the ground marker as the teams pull back and forth. Or a clock pendulum like the one that my Mom’s parents had in their house.

I think this concept comes out of my previous meditation on balance. I used to say and think that a lot – “everything in life needs balance”, “it’s all about balance”. But this concept brings to mind images of someone carrying a tall stack of books that is teetering and the person is trying everything they can to not let the books do so. Or someone on a tightrope who has to walk a narrow cable with disastrous consequences if they fall.

And I realized that my viewing life as “balance” was related to how I viewed grace. How I viewed grace wrongly, that is. Because for me to insinuate that life could eventually come to this perfect medium of balance is faulty. Let’s get a few things straight: life is messy, and perfection is impossible to achieve. I thought that with hard work life could level out. With that philosophy I was substituting meritocracy¹ for grace.

Grace. It’s one of those words that are used (and thrown around?) a lot in the Christian community. Which makes sense as to why I understood intellectually what grace was growing up, but I’m not sure if I really felt grace until my fourth year at Biola. Oh, I understood mentally that I was saved by grace. But I didn’t allow myself to feel the presence of grace in my life. And once I felt grace, I also began to feel freedom.

How did I feel grace? I learned how to say no. And by that I mean, a few times in situations where I was pretty sure I knew what the “right” decision was, I would willfully choose to do the opposite. And then I would sit and claim grace over my decision. Sounds crazy, right? Now, before you think “disobedient!” and “you’re not a true Christian!” know those voices were already yelling in my head loud enough for my whole neighborhood to hear. Learning to trust that God knows the condition and intentions of my heart regardless of my actions is a lesson I’ll be on for a while.

There are a lot of individuals like myself who grew up in the church and have a difficult and frustrating time owning and experiencing their own relationship with our Savior. My journey of ownership began in 8th grade. Since then I’ve continually had to reexamine and deconstruct everything that I’ve been taught growing up. I literally have to relearn it all. And it’s tricky and challenging because there are beliefs I’ve found in myself that I didn’t realize I was taught – like how I viewed and experienced grace.

I’m living in tension between…

Legalism and antinomianism.
My and others’ expectations for myself and God’s expectations of me.
Being responsible for or to someone or something and not claiming responsibility.
Living to gain material wealth and living simply, generously, and sacrificially.

…and a whole lot more, of course.

I’m coming to terms that I’ll never be in perfect balance. Hopefully as I swing back and forth I will eventually not swing so far from side to side, slowly making my way closer to the middle, the perfect balance. I know achieving that will not happen in this lifetime though. So for now I will live in tension, and live in grace.


¹Meritocracy: Believing that the harder one works, the more he/she will be rewarded. That success in life is directly correlated to how hard one works.