the baby and the bathwater

November 25, 2007, 4:45 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

tension: the interplay of conflicting elements

We live life in the midst of tensions.

Some of those tensions come about purely because people view things in different ways.

Take our car for example. When I look at our car, I think: “O look, a haven of peace and quiet away from the busyness of life; a place where you can listen to the pleasant hum of radio five live; a place where everything is clean, organised and tidy”. Whereas, when my wife looks at our car she thinks: “O look, a place to store stuff’. Tension results. We have to live with it. At least until one of my songs starts to make a huge pile of cash and I can buy my own car.

Some tensions are creative.

In our songs we get melodies and harmonies that move us from one flavour to the next – from something that builds expectation to something that provides rest, from something that questions the mind to something that satisfies the heart. There may be tension in a painting or in a piece of writing as we seek to explore themes and illustrate emotions. They are tensions that provide interest and colour into our lives.

And then some tensions arise because you are forced to watch disastrous circumstances unfold from the sidelines, unable to have any influence on the eventual outcome.

England vs Croatia. Enough said.

Then there are divine tensions.

Divine tensions.

Makes you want to close down this blog and turn on some trivial television, doesn’t it?

Divine tensions.

But just stay with me for a moment. There’s still a few more minutes before strictly come dancing starts.

Divine tensions.

These are tensions inherent in the nature of God that are not designed to be resolved but form the foundations of His character and activity. They are tensions that we may well never fully be able to explain, but they are tensions that we need to fully embrace as we walk with God.

And here is one of the tensions that I am wrestling with: God is the God of Miracles. He can, and does, perform wondrous acts that can only be explained by divine intervention. Water becomes wine, the blind immediately start to see, the lame instantaneously walk. Yet God is also a God of Majesty. He is a sovereign God, and as such, He makes decisions about how and what and when He will reveal things to us. And sometimes that seems to mean that the sick don’t always get better, that the wine runs out, that the lame have to live with their disability for a very long while.

It’s a huge tension. Miracles and Majesty.

And I often find that people tend to identify themselves with one side of this tension more easily than the other.

There are those that are living for miracles. Their favourite words are ‘glory’ and ‘experience’ and they look for gold dust and diamond studded teeth. They live life ‘plundering heaven’ and ‘walking in the victory’. Just say the right prayers with the right words and with the right hand and body gestures and you’ll see God break through with miraculous power. It all sounds so plausible. But there is a weakness in this approach. It’s consumerism in a brand new hat. And actually God probably isn’t a God who deals out His favours in response to a formula. His miracles aren’t there on the shelf waiting to be picked up and taken to the checkout. He has compassion on whom He has compassion. His choice.

Then there are those who can only understand the majesty. They are resigned to whatever life throws at them. Que sera, sera, whatever will be will be. Their favourite words are ‘humble’ and ‘contrite’ and they sit and wait for an invitation to a royal tea party that never arrives, whilst their lives descend into a numbed inactivity. And there’s a weakness in this approach too. It’s laziness wrapped up in the illusion of humility. And God doesn’t expect the treasures He gives to us to be buried out of sight where they don’t demand any attention. He expects us to invest everything we have in making them work for His purposes.

You see, it seems to me that we actually need to be people who hold in tension the miracles and the majesty of God. We need to pursue Him, and pray for His miraculous intervention in our world and the lives of those around us. We need to draw ever closer to Him, seeking His intervention, but as we draw closer to Him, we also need to bow down lower before Him, yielding to His sovereignty.

And yes, we need to lift our voices as the gathered people of God, crying out for His wonders to be performed in our towns and cities, desperate to see His kingdom grow amongst us. But as we cry out ever louder to Him, we also need to throw off our shoes and remember we stand on holy ground.

And as we do this, we discover one of the main qualities that embracing divine tension brings in life.


Tension is the strength for the world’s tallest buildings and longest bridges. It stands at the heart of sky-scrapers in their steel structures, and it rests in the very wires that support the bridges that span our widest rivers. And when we embrace this tension of miracles and majesty we too find our strength. Strength to continue to pray with all our might when we are desperate to see God move in a particular way. And strength to believe that, when the answer is not what we hoped for, God has made His choice from His heart of love that ultimately has our best interests, and His best interests, in mind.

When we embrace divine tension, we find divine strength.

Now where’s that TV remote…..


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