This morning a meditation from Paula Ripple’s Growing Strong at Broken Places sparks some thoughts about embracing brokenness as the very site where God seeks to form us, like a master potter, into the people we can become.

Ripple draws out her analogy from the words of one woman potter, who uses her work as a metaphor for life. The potter explains that she uses both her hands to shape the pot, and that for shape, texture and form to materialize, “tension” is necessary—both from the outside (the external force of the pressure applied) and from the inside. The potter goes on to reflect that her own life is the product of this tension between the external forces (the love of friends or life’s inevitable losses) and those inner resources, like faith, personality, and one’s interior life; and this tension is actually where new life bubbles up, where the questions (as opposed to easy answers) emerge that will reawaken us to Life Itself.

Creative Tension and Avoidance Issues

Of course this tension may be painful. It may seem completely unnecessary or, as most of us prefer, avoidable. It’s possible in some cases that this tension is avoidable, at least for a time.

So we walk away from a marriage that, while not abusive, has become entrenched in dysfunctional ways of relating to one another.

Or, we pretend that we are okay on the outside when on the inside we’re dying.

It’s an easier life in some ways to avoid places of brokenness…

…so we turn the channel when those heartbreaking pictures of emaciated children appear on the screen.

…or, we practice our politeness just enough to say “hi” to the homeless person as we go on our way without a second thought.

…or, we point out all of our colleague’s flaws rather than looking at our own places of deep brokenness.

“There is a tendency in us to want to live tension-free,” Ripple writes.

Jesus Wants Us To Be Fully Alive, Which Isn’t Always Comfortable

But a tension-free life is only for those who are not broken, or can easily pretend they are not. A tension-free life is for those who have decided to live their lives and their faith at the surface, in false, skin-deep appearances. Those who follow Jesus to the cross will embrace tension as even a gift— “a gift that sometimes will not permit us to escape its presence,” as Ripple puts it.

Here is Ripple again:  “I believe that our creative energies are activated by just that kind of upsetting tension. It is in responding to this gnawing discomfort that we have the possibility of giving shape to dreams that are at once faithful to who we are and who we can become.”

No, I suspect Jesus’ desire for us is not that we be comfortable—but rather that we might have abundant life.

Living in and embracing the creative tension of our today is one pathway.


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