Tension

Contributing Writer
Pastor Shawn Hannon
Hope Lutheran Church Arcade, NY

In physics, tension describes a pulling force that is accompanied by an action-reaction force acting in the opposite direction. Think: Tug of war. Two parties grab hold of the same rope and pull in different directions. As they pull, the rope stretches and becomes tight.

This Lent I’ve allowed myself to be stretched a little bit, and I’ve done it by embracing some of faith’s natural tensions. You see, faith is full of action-reaction forces pulling against each other in the heart of each believer and in the lives of communities of faith.

  • We hear Paul remind us that we are saved by grace through faith. We hear James remind us that faith without works is dead.
  • We hear Martin Luther remind us that the Christian is utterly free—doesn’t owe a thing to anyone. Yet at the exact same time, the same Christian is utterly dutiful—a servant to everyone he meets.
  • We long for faith, while wrestling with doubt.
  • We long for strength, while struggling with our weakness.
  • We hear Jesus’ command to live in the world, while we also heed Jesus’ reminder that we are not of the world.
  • God tells us we are saints. Our mirrors tell us we are sinners.
    Tension. There are forces, concepts, notions, and questions that stand in stark contrast to one another, while leaving us in the middle stretched like a rope. Which is right?

Now you may be thinking to yourself, why would anyone intentionally try to struggle with these things? Because let’s face it, we don’t like tension. So often in life we long for simple answers. We long for black and white scenarios. We’re like kids in algebra. We want the teacher to just tell us the answer already without having to show any of the work. But we forget, it’s the work that teaches us. Not the simple answers. We want quick fixes, but forget that it’s the struggle that forms us. We want a set of beliefs that makes perfect sense and always makes us feel better, but forget that the Lenten journey we are on ends with our Messiah on a cross—a reality that neither makes sense, nor should feel good.

But what if I told you that while tension in physics resembles a tug of war, tension in spirituality resembles a tug of peace? It’s true. Tension happens when there is dialogue and conversation. Tension happens when opposite notions engage instead of avoid. Tension allows us to be comforted and confronted at the same time. It allows us to see whole truths instead of easy answers. And in a messy world like ours, tension is the only way to make any sense.

Tension is stretching, and who doesn’t need to be stretched every now and then? As we approach a blessed Easter season, I pray that you might struggle—which I’m sure is the last thing you thought you’d hear a pastor say. But I pray that you might allow yourself to struggle with questions of faith, because in that struggle, I know that you will see God.

For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.