There is a tension that exists between our physical bodies and our spiritual ones. Have you heard the phrase, “you can be so heavenly bound that you are no earthly good?” The general idea is that sometimes we allow one to disconnect from the other, and that is not how God created us. I am guilty of allowing the “cares of this world” to infiltrate my perspective. Sometimes I am so focused on the here and now that I lose a sense of purpose and focus, my world gets cluttered, and I tend to drift. However, there are times that I am guilty of so longing for my heavenly home that I dissociate with the here and now. I lose my sense of empathy and compassion. Tension is typically found in the middle. For example, if you are exercising, you are willingly putting your body in a state of tension. Too much exertion and you can harm yourself. Too little exertion and you are wasting your time. Therefore, the middle is where I find myself and from that middle I can grow.
Our world seems to be intoxicated with chaos. The overwhelming amount of information that we are exposed to, much of it beyond our understanding and context, can only heighten this tension between the physical and the spiritual. There are times that I find myself so distracted that I either drown myself in the physical, that which I can define with my senses, or I escape by myself into my spiritual cave oblivious to that which is around me.
God, who is ever-present and has asked me to walk with Him, is the consummate teacher, coach and guide. His constant presence provides me the instruction to live within this tension. What must I do to better understand and live within the tension? How do I respond to His guidance? I have found that a few things help.
Slowing down helps
The fast pace of my life can easily interrupt a larger more important story God is telling. The old adage of “slow down and smell the roses” rings true. I have found that if I slow my life down and seek some quiet, I am better able to experience what God is trying to show me. Remember when you were a child, you were told to chew your food, not just swallow it. Why were we told that? Well, one, it’s safer to chew and can prevent one from choking; however, it also slowed us down to actually enjoy the experience. Sometimes I think I just swallow life, and I don’t actually “chew on it.” For example, I remember a large family dinner where everyone was talking all at once. I interrupted with a suggestion for a discussion. I suggested that we all go around the table and share one thing God had shown us in the past six months. I don’t remember much about the meal, but I do remember one of the answers to the question. My grandmother simply said, “God is faithful.” I knew there was depth to those three words. The dinner was an example of a physical experience that set the table for a spiritual lesson.
Steps of faith are critical
I have also found that the curiosity of faith can lead me where God wants me to go. God gently nudges me to experiences that I naturally may shy away from. He creates that tension because He wants me to grow. There are times that the tension can be a bit intense. I remember visiting a leper colony in the Dominican Republic as a teenager. I was fearful of what I may see and experience. I had seen the movies and was apprehensive of being in the presence of these poor people whose disease had disfigured their bodies. I had learned that leprosy robs its victim of sensations, and as a result, the person harms themselves without knowing it. For example, forgetting to blink can lead to blindness, and many lepers are blind for that reason. I remember my fear and apprehension disappearing as I came to realize that these people were precious in the eyes of God. The two Catholic sisters that had dedicated their lives to caring for these precious people acted as a guide for me. They helped me understand the tension that existed, loving people that may be hard to love with the supernatural love of God. I better understood God’s ability to love me, despite my grotesque sin. A random trip on a tropical island to the home of lepers was another example of living in the tension, where God wants me. How do I allow my experience then to be shaped by the pen in God’s hand as He writes my story?
Lastly, being present is how God created me. Too often I live in the past or future and miss out on what God is doing now. I recently found myself standing in the corner of a small room, somewhat unnoticed, as I watched the whirlwind of activity. The room was a mixture of adults and children. Several were dancing to a children’s music video, mimicking every dance move and singing along with every word. Two others were playing a game of indoor basketball oblivious to the dance moves of the others, perhaps seeing them as the opposing team. One had grabbed a vacuum cleaner and started cleaning up and arranging the room that had become a den of chaos. The whole scene probably lasted about three minutes and then within seconds everyone disappeared, and life had become quiet again. I chose to stand there and quietly watch. What was God showing me? In the midst of the loud and chaotic scene, He was showing me His joy. In this case it was members of a family being playful. God created us to play, laugh, dance and sing…even while we are surrounded by serious things. He gave me a glimpse of what He sees. Again, God has called me to live in the tension between the here and now and the eternal perspective that He sees. The world we live in is broken, and yet He has promised to never leave me nor forsake me. He’s called me to live in the tension of what I see and what He sees. Therefore, it’s critical for me to stay close to Him. God is writing His story and He has just included me as part of it.
Stephan N. Tchividjian is the president and founder of the National Christian Foundation South Florida. Visit southflorida.ncfgiving.com to learn more.
Read more articles by Stephan Tchividjian at: https://www.goodnewsfl.org/author/stephan-tchividjian/