Peace in Paradox

Accepting life as paradoxical is living in truth. I reject simplistic thinking. I reject the notion that there is a simple explanation for every human experience. Life is not black and white. It’s not gray either. It’s a prism of multifaceted hues blending together to create an infinite array of possibilities; with each soul living an experience individually crafted by Divinity.

One of the great insults we give to each other is to disparage another’s present circumstance by offering simplistic solutions or explanations for their complex journey.  If a friend is grieving the loss of a loved one we might say, “cheer up, they are in a better place.” If a couple is struggling with infertility, after they’ve been given every piece of advice on how to make a baby (as if they didn’t already know), they might hear ridiculous, painful words like “be thankful you don’t have kids – it’s not all it’s  cracked up to be.” A friend facing divorce may hear self-righteous people touting statistics about the harm they are doing to their children.  We are not God. We cannot know the complex intricacies woven through every individual human experience; and frankly, it’s not our privilege to know.

A  favorite passage of mine is from C.S. Lewis’, “The Horse and His Boy.”  As Shasta and Aravis come to the end of an arduous journey which had been fraught danger on all sides, they both individually come to realize that the times during which they had perceived themselves as being in the greatest peril, particularly in relation to being chased by lions, was when Aslan had been working for their good. Below is an excerpt from Shasta’s pivotal conversation with Aslan:

“I do not call you unfortunate,” said the Large Voice.

“Don’t you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?” said Shasta.

“There was only one lion,” said the Voice.

“What on earth do you mean? I’ve just told you there were at least two the first night, and –”

“There was only one: but he was swift of foot.”

“How do you know?”

“I was the lion.” And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. “I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight to receive you.”

“Then it was you who wounded Aravis?”

“It was I.”

“But what for?”

“Child,” said the Voice, “I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.”

We are only told our own story. For us to presume that our story is the same as another’s is prideful and narcissistic. For us to think that we understand the reason behind another’s pain, and proceed to speak in to their situation as such, only increases their suffering. How can we, as humans, claim to understand the reasons behind the very personal and very individual experiences of another? Life is far more complex and exceedingly more beautiful than that.

I don’t believe there is a reason for anything, I believe there are many reasons for everything. Thus is life in the paradox. It is not easy to reside here. It means that for every social issue, every economic situation, every political diatribe, every individual struggle, we come closest to the truth when we admit that we can only ever have part of the solution, and that sometimes the answers seem to contradict each other. There is peace to be had here in the paradox, but it takes a certain amount of surrendering  our desire to be right and to have all the answers.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.

“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.

For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,

so my ways are higher than your ways

and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9

© Beside Still Waters, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Beside Still Waters with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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2 thoughts on “Peace in Paradox

  1. Excellent post. I recently posted on a similar thing – embracing the paradox of life. Thanks for your well-written thoughts. Yes, trite answers (whether about the death of a loved one, or someone struggling with doubts about the Bible) can be so non-helpful and even insulting.

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