a reposted essay
Thank you so much for clicking on our Monday post this week! As you can see, things are looking a little different today. Thanks to some household emergencies (which are now solved, thank goodness!) last week’s schedule got very messy indeed, and my Substack content took the brunt of the hit. My July Issue launch was pushed back to today, and as a result my devotional for today was not ready.
I’m not going to make a habit of this, but I’ve decided to repost an essay from my very early days here on Substack, which I imagine most of you have not read yet. It was originally posted under the title Tension: The Exquisite Stretch. I felt a stirring in my soul to post it here, especially in light of current events. I know today is supposed to be a devotional day, but I felt this message might be needed.
I hope it offers some degree of comfort and hope.
I’ll have a discussion question and another piece of content available on Thursday as usual, and next week we’ll be back to normal with a Comment Highlight and everything. Thank you for your patience!
PS: Paid subscribers, the July Issue will be out at noon today! If you are not a paid subscriber and you would like to join in, hit the button below!
“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, still I would plant my apple tree.”
If there’s something we’ve all been faced with, lately, it’s the cognitive dissonance of the interconnected world we’ve built.
The technology that makes it easy for us to see what’s happening beyond the walls of our homes is also the same technology that gives us glimpses into other people’s minds, for better or for worse. In one scroll we can take in memes, advice, cringe content, encouragement, and classic quotes of sages past right next to scenes of genocide, war, unbridled racism, and political posturing.
It’s not a hot take to say that it feels like too much to handle, especially on the back-end of a years-long pandemic and cultural upheaval, both positive and negative. It’s not new to mention that this isn’t how we were “designed” to soak up information. I don’t think anyone is arguing otherwise.
But it can be easy to fall into extremes. Caring too much, and caring too little. I’ve seen messages saying, “It’s okay to step away, turn off the news. Take care of yourself.” and I’ve seen other messages saying, “You shouldn’t look away. It’s wrong.”
Which is correct?
Well, both. That's the tension.
The truth is, we live in a broken world. And the smaller we’ve chosen to make it, the higher our responsibility is to our fellow humans. If you put down your phone, tragedy is still happening. You’re just not seeing it. But it’s there. Our devices become little windows, little bites of that fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, letting us see everything that we were not meant to see. But turning off our phones is a privilege. Looking away is a gift not everyone has. And it should humble us to know that.
At the same time, mental health and overwhelm are real things, and the core of the discomfort we feel when we scroll is helplessness. Seeing tragedy is one thing, doing something about it is another. It can feel like social media just gives us glimpses of situations we can’t fix, and for many of us that can be truly maddening.
I’ve written before about tending. Strangely, tending and tension share an etymological root. They both relate to stretching (that’s the “ten-” part of both words). Tending is stretching our minds toward something in expectation and mindfulness, while tension is stretching between two extremes; a contest, a struggle.
I put to you: being alive requires stretch.
In this broken world, we will be faced with grief. Some of it will be our own, and some of it will belong to others. And being human means holding it all in tension, in an exquisite struggle.
We cannot turn away. And we cannot dive in and repair it all. We can only sit with it, and sit with ourselves, holding the world’s griefs up to our Creator like a child with a broken toy and ask, “What am I meant to do with this?”
And sometimes, the answer is that you can do nothing. Just sit. Just weep. Sometimes we need to weep; it keeps us aware, it softens us. Don’t hide from sorrow. It is not a sin to be sad.
But sometimes, the answer to tension will be tending. Tension is a stretching between two points. But if you stretch further in one direction than another, you’ll find yourself tending. Fixing the repairs you can reach. Holding the hand that’s nearby. Finding common ground in unlikely places. Making, creating, and letting the seeds that were planted in darkness grow.
The question we must struggle with when faced with grief is this: if you knew the world would go to pieces tomorrow, would you still plant your apple tree? And do you trust the God Who Grows to work that planted seed into something beyond your expectations, despite the tension in our flesh and blood?
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