Over the years I have learned to embrace and even love paradox. There are few things that I would label “either/or”; most of what I see and experience in life seems to be “both/and”, and those things which are “both/and” are often, on the surface, in tension with each other. Some classic paradoxes that I encounter on an almost daily basis are:
What I do in ministry doesn’t matter much/what I do in ministry makes all the difference.
On the one hand, what I do is lead songs and that, when it comes to the big picture of existence doesn’t matter too much, and yet, it can make all the difference in the world when it comes to softening hearts to change… but they’re just songs… but they’re so much more than that…
I am new in Christ/I am being made new.
I believe that Jesus changed things. Human history has not been the same since he showed up here over 2000 years ago. Because of how he lived and how he died who we are, how we view ourselves and the world, even life itself is different. On a personal level, I am different and the chains that held me have been removed. I am a new person. And yet, old habits die hard and I am constantly having to come back to the cross and leave my junk there. It’s kinda like trying to set a monkey loose in the wild, but it follows me and jumps on my back when I’m not looking. No Monkey! Stay… STAY! Argh… damn monkey!
Because of Jesus, I don’t own the monkey anymore, I’m not responsible for it… but letting it go is hard.
Worst description ever.
Lately, the paradox that I’ve been loving is the freedom that comes from confinement/the confinement that comes from too much freedom.
One of the blessings/curses of my job is the freedom I have. It’s a blessing because it allows everyday to be different and alive with possibility. It’s a curse because I end up being distracted by every pretty, shiny thing that catches my eye… literally and figuratively.
One of my new years desires was to adhere to a more rigid schedule (but not too rigid). So what I did was I went into my calendar and slotted in “daily non-negotables”, the things that I would do everyday. Then I went onto the new apple desktop app store (a great time waster, btw) and purchased blotter so that my calendar is always right in front of me (because I was always booking stuff but forgetting to check). The other thing I did was I changed my weekly schedule so that I work Sunday – Thursday instead of Tuesday – Sunday with Saturday as a pseudo day-off. The reason why Saturday was a “pseudo day-off” was because I would always put stuff for Sundays aside thinking “I’ve got time, I’ll get to it later” and then end up having to come in on Saturday nights to finish things. It was dumb. By having to have Sunday ready by Thursday it forces me to remain diligent throughout the week because I’ve taken the swing day away. Also, having two days off in a row is excellent for my mental health. Thus far these have all been very beneficial and energizing changes.
There is a myth that lack of structure or confinement breeds greater freedom.
Peter Gabriel (a personal hero of mine) has talked numerous times about the various rules he gives himself and the people he works with on his projects. If you give a creative person complete unhindered freedom, they just flit about aimlessly, but give them a set of rules and they put all their creative energy into pushing those boundaries (something that artists are great at) and the result is more excellent art.
Scott Bakker (one of my favourite authors) recently wrote an article for The Guardian “the myth of the vulgar cage”:
“…wherein conventions are understood as constraints, and genre, therefore, is characterized by the absence of freedom. This, we are supposed to believe, is bad, very bad.”
Bakker argues that the conventions and constraints of genre actually create the opportunity to challenge both the readers expectations as well as their assumptions, which, at its heart, is the goal of literature. Without genre, you effectively limit your audience to the choir that already agrees with you and close the doors that lead to the very people you want to reach.
So two questions for you today:
-what paradoxes face you that you need to embrace rather than fight against?
-where in your life are you being held in the trap of too much freedom?
I will close with the words of St. Bono: “What you thought was freedom is just free”.