Healing Contradictions

Henri Nouwen writes, "The many contradictions in our lives – such as being home while feeling homeless, being busy while feeling bored, being popular while feeling lonely, being believers while feeling many doubts – can frustrate, irritate, and even discourage us. They make us feel that we are never fully present. Every door that opens for us makes us see how many more doors are closed. But there is another response. These same contradictions can bring us into touch with a deeper longing, for the fulfillment of a desire that lives beneath all desires and that only God can satisfy. Contradictions, thus understood, create the friction that can help us move toward God."

This fits in well with what I was reading a week or two ago about ‘orthopradoxy.’ Dwight Friesen a contributor to AN EMERGENT MANIFESTO OF HOPE suggests that being church is really all about embracing an idea that he calls orthoparadoxy. He defines that as "an effort to make God’s main thing the main thing for all people of God: reconciliation. Not sameness or agreement but differentiated oneness – where the fullness of one can be in relationship with the fullness of another. Orthopardox hold difference, tensions, otherness, and paradoxes with grace, humility, respect and curiosity, while simultaneously bringing the fullness of self to the ‘other’ in conversation, not to convert or to convince but with the hope of mutual transformation through interpersonal relationship."

Both of these notions well define the practice of living a Christian discipleship. Those who get mired down in arguments about orthodoxy or ‘right beliefs’ are in my opinion, in denial of what is intrinsic in the Christian’s journey – that which is so well articulated by Nouwen above. A living faith is one which can embrace the notion that we come closest to understanding what we believe when we are prepared to embrace the notion we are often uncertain and contradicted about what we believe. Even more tragic is the resultant discord in the community of God when engage on discussions of orthodoxy or orthopraxy. What is ‘right belief?" What is ‘right practice’ or ‘right worship?’ Friesen’s concept of orthopardoxy is a healthy approach to encourage the people of God to understand that the manifestation of the Light of God is found in diverse and varied places and we can perhaps best experience that Holy Presence by engaging in a respectful way those who have different beliefs, different practices than our own.

The challenge then is to be comfortable enough to allow internal contradictions and tensions to live within us, guiding us on our journey toward Light. If we can live comfortably within these contractions we will likely become self-aware enough to begin to live in those contractions with others, accepting that we are not all the same, we do not all believe the same things, we do not all worship the same way. Nor do we need to all be obsessed with sameness. There is a oneness that is most complete because of its ability to accept differentiation – can we embrace that paradox?


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