Friday, July 24, 2015

Stress and Tension

Stress is a word I used to refuse to acknowledge.  It's true.  I don't really know how one refuses to acknowledge a word, but nonetheless I did.  At least, I refused to acknowledge that I could, or should, have it. 

I can't say why this is - I can only remember my reaction when people, even people close to me, would try to talk about if I was feeling stressed.  

A person might say how a particular situation could be really stressful for me, and I would push back really hard against this - "I am not stressed!"  I would say, quite strongly.  Usually followed by "I don't get stressed."

Get real.

Everyone has stress.  Webster's first definition for stress is, "a constraining force or influence."  Stress can be positive (I used to work fabulously well under pressure and deadlines...I will probably return to that again, very soon...though life has not been that way for me, lately).  Stress can be negative (particularly that word, 'constraining' which I find to be quite similar to 'oppressive'...and oppression is what I've recently been living under for far too long).  But everyone has it, to varying degrees at different times in life, one way or the other (or both). 

But it is really important to acknowledge it.  It's OK to be stressed.  It's not inherently bad, or somehow evil.  Stress in a natural feeling and reaction that lets us know we need to respond in specific ways in order to alleviate the stress.  To borrow a word from another part of Webster's definitions, there is a "tension" involved with stress.

People don't like tension.  Probably because people don't like stress.  But they are both necessary.  The way many people seem to want to resolve tension between two things is to choose one or the other - we might, for example, have tension between our work and home responsibilities. So we choose one as the priority, to the exclusion, or at least the detriment, of the other.  We might have tension over relationships with friends and how much time we spend (or don't spend) with them as opposed to other important areas of our lives.  So we choose to either ditch our friend (or friends) altogether, or allow them to dominate our lives and squeeze out needed time for ourselves, our families, or God. 

There are hundreds of such scenarios.  I am not so concerned with specific ones as I am an underlying factor:  These tendencies are really the "either/or" dichotomous thinking that cause so many of our problems in this world, from the most complex international issues to the simplest interpersonal relationship.  For a long time now I have tried to embrace "both/and" thinking, rather than "either/or" thinking.  I call this the "Via Bothandia."  I'll probably re-post my original thinking on this from a previous blog/website, here, for a #tbt someday. 

To summarize for now though, it's sort of like the "Via Media" - the "Middle Way" with which John Wesley and the Anglicans would have been so familiar.  The difference is this, though:  The "Via Media" is intended to be a middle way between "two extremes" - essentially, a compromise.  That sounds good, but what often happens in compromises is that we lose the best of both extremes and wind up with a watered-down, muddied and muddled middle position, which really doesn't represent either of the other positions well.  It is certainly better than straight "either/or" thinking, but is still a derivative of it.

So when I coined the term "Via Bothandia" it was intended to take the concept of a "Middle Way" but ground it in "both/and" thinking rather than "either/or" thinking.  In the "Via Bothandia" rather than seeking a middle way between two extremes, we embrace all the best and good qualities of each extreme, and hold them in dynamic tension with one another.  Uh-oh.  There's that word again:  Tension.

It is my contention, that until we learn how to appropriately navigate dynamic tension in our thinking, belief, practice, and hearts - and hold on to the good, from wherever and whomever it comes - we won't be able to fully live a life of love for God, self and others, nor will be able to adequately and accurately proclaim, preach, and teach Jesus' message of the gospel of the Kingdom of God.  I think Paul's words to the Church in Thessalonica are important here:

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil (I Thessalonians 5:19-22).

Do you see the dynamic tension at work in Paul's words here as he advises the Church?  Do you see the both/and thinking?  Do you see how either/or thinking may be much more likely to "quench the Spirit"?  And how both/and thinking is how we navigate what is good and true, and dare I say it, holy?  After all, Paul's immediate words that follow the above are these:

"May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it."  There is something about testing for what is good and true in the midst of a fallen world that brings about...holiness.

It's time to get real.  It's time to get stressed (let's really hope it's mostly the good kind, for a nice change of pace!).  It's time to live in dynamic tension.  It's time to know the times.  And this is the time.  While I may not post every Friday, today is the first and introductory installment of #AncientFutureFriday here at that will be published regularly (as always, my definition) on, naturally, Fridays.

#AncientFutureFriday posts (I am borrowing the "Ancient-Future" term from the late Robert E. Webber - for more information on some of the background of this term, click here) will focus on the often stressful work of navigating the dynamic tension of the present between what has been in the past and what will be in the future. 

Essentially the term "Ancient-Future" is meant to place the present and ongoing future life of Ekklesia (the Greek word for the community of faith established by Jesus and built on the foundation of the first apostles and disciples of Jesus (what has come to be called 'church' - even though that is an invented word that never appears in the Greek) in the holistic context of her nearly 2,000 year history (especially the first few generations, and centuries, after the life of Jesus) as well the historical Jewish faith from which she was born (thus, "ancient"). 

In these posts I'll delve into both ancient writings/topics and future writings/topics, in light of the present historical-cultural context we find ourselves in, as they pertain to theology, the Church, eschatology, semiotics, economics, prophetic and apostolic thinking, and more. 

Next week I'll begin an #AncientFutureFriday series on the Didache.  Some may be asking, "Did-what?" Others may be aware of the Didache but never have investigated it fully.  And still others I hope will have enough familiarity to offer unique insights.  I think working through these earliest of apostolic teachings from the infancy of the New Testament church, and translating and connecting them with how we live as the body of Christ today, particularly from a Wesleyan-Arminian theological perspective, is a great way to begin with #AncientFutureFriday.  I hope you'll look forward to it as much as I do.


  1. Something that I find, living within the Via Bothandia philosophy, is that as we embrace extremes on both sides, we often take hits from both sides, as well. I have experienced this in many areas of life definitely including, but not limited to, religion and politics. And yet, this also allows for common ground on both sides, which can be very helpful in coming to loving and peaceful solutions. It's difficult to hold so many things in tension, though, and finding balance is essential.

    1. It is difficult, and we have to remember, we aren't trying to hold *everything* in tension - but only what is good, pure, right, and true from each side.

      Sometimes we lose balance because we are trying to hold on to things that *aren't* part of "the best" of each extreme.

      We can also do so because there *are* legitimately positions that fall "in the middle" (I don't mean to suggest that anything in the middle is bad, or that the Via Media is not valid, only that I think we do well to move *beyond* the middle/Via Media by embracing more both/and thinking), and if we ignore those middle positions that are valid and good, we might get pulled apart by the extremes. "Bothandia" can and should include the best of middle-ground positions *along with* the best of each extreme.