Yesterday a thick bank of dark clouds settled over our city. The shadow of a summer storm reached us. Rain fell intermittently, yet the clouds remained. The sky seemed to mirror my own heart, which had been tossing between grief and anger for the past few days. On my drive to work, I noticed that on the horizon I could see the boundary of these dismal clouds, and below them flashed bright blue skies streaked with white. My eyes reached for the sunlight this stretch of sky offered, and my heart followed longingly.
It is a season of tension, and somedays the friction rubs my soul raw.
Since last November, my heart sways between hope and resignation as I watch the morning news and scroll through my newsfeed. The events of the past month have only fueled the tension between hope and resignation. Chaos, conflict, and craziness seem to dominate the headlines, and sometimes it seems to infect my heart and soul too. Honestly, I am finding it hard to trust that all will be well.
Just over two weeks ago, my oldest son left for college, and with his move, sorrow and joy seem to have taken up residence in my heart. It doesn’t feel like there is space for both, yet here they are. I am overjoyed by how much Seth is enjoying college life; however, I am brokenhearted that he is there and not here. I am cheering him on while I am weeping because he has moved away.
In a few days, I will be speaking to a large group of women—many of you—at the Brave On conference, and I feel both extremely honored and utterly terrified. I relish the gift of this invitation; I also recognize the pressure. The opportunity requires vulnerability, honesty, and transparency from me. Both fear and courage will be traveling with me to Grand Rapids.
In the midst of it all, the greatest tension of all—life and death—reaches my family and my faith community. My uncle will likely die by the week’s end. He is 85 years old and ready to go to the far green country. My mother cares for him, her only brother, as best she can and begins to plan for his imminent graveside service. Meanwhile, a dear friend is losing her lengthy battle with cancer, and our church is on alert, praying for her precious family and witnessing their brave journey through the valley of the shadow.
It is a lot to hold. As the tension stretches me thin, I find myself awestruck by the incredible reality that life seems to be comprised of “both/and,” not “either/or.” There is injustice, and there is hope. There is sorrow, and there is joy. There is fear, and there is courage. There is death, and there is life. Sometimes there are blissful seasons when we are living in the fullness of only hope, joy, courage, and life, but more often, we are experiencing the juxtaposition of both as they co-exist.
It’s in that tension, I find myself brought to my knees in surrender. As I pray for mercy for my aching heart, I wonder,
“What if we discover truth by living through stories of tension?”
After all, tension seems to be central to a Christ-follower’s life, as evidenced by Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians: We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned, struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (4:8-10).
Just as we’re always carrying both death and life around in our bodies, God is teaching me to take note of the holy beauty on display in both darkness and light. We were recently in the path of totality for the solar eclipse. We watched as darkness crept across the sky until, for thirty breathtaking seconds, the moon completely blocked the sun’s rays. Then, a tiny slice of the sun reappeared, and its light was blinding. Victor Hugo wrote, “All is well, provided the light returns and the eclipse does not become endless night. Dawn and resurrection are synonymous.”
Leaning into the tension is counterintuitive, but as I do, I open myself to new possibilities and give myself permission to experience life in all of its fullness. When I feel like everything—even my own heart—is on the verge of breaking apart, I can be confident that God is before all things, and in Him all things hold together…including me! (Colossians 1:17).
The tension teaches me to remain on my knees in surrender and keep my eyes lifted to the sky. The storm cloud overhead is real and so is the beckoning sunlight. I keep moving forward, moving toward the light.
Susan Tucker spends her days mothering her two teenage sons, teaching middle school English, and savoring rare moments of quiet and solitude. She lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, with her sons and her husband of 23 years. Susan finds life in a beautiful story, an authentic conversation, worship music, and ultimately, in Jesus, the giver of all good gifts.