There’s an age old riddle, “What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?”
The riddle’s about paradox, two things existing in the same space, which should not be able to. If the force is truly unstoppable, the object cannot be immoveable—but if the object is truly immoveable, the force cannot be unstoppable. More, the riddle is intended to challenge the concept of omnipotence—a variation goes something like, “Can God create a rock so heavy that He is unable to lift it?”
The telling point here is that the challenge presupposes that God is unable to hold contradiction within Himself, when God—and the whole nature of the Trinity—actually embraces the idea of contradiction.
Riddles aside, one aspect of paradox seems set to stymie us over and over again:
It’s the idea that tension and stress are a barrier to action and progress, a check to momentum, and as much as it would seem to be self-evident, it’s an utter fallacy.
We associate tension with rigidity, inflexibility, and therefore with stasis, and stress with worry and pressure—and therefore paralysis.
The truth of the matter is another apparent contradiction—stress and tension are essential to action. There is no movement without tension. This tenet is true throughout every aspect of our lives, from the day-to-day minutiae of practical living, through the pressures of work and family, to our higher spiritual relationship with God.
In order to pick up your cup of coffee in the morning, you need to tense your muscles, along your arm, wrist and hand, to the tips of your fingers, your whole arm tensed into the perfect shape for long enough to get the cup from the table to your lips and back again without spilling a drop.
Stress and focus at work is a given, if you’re going to do your job to the specifications you were hired for—but it’s just as tense a situation looking after the needs of your family, because the rewards for success and the pitfalls for failure are so great, and the people so important.
Of course, it’s important to be able to step back from that tension and stress before it stops working for you and starts working against you—before action becomes friction.
But it’s those tense, focused moments that achieve those results, that allow movement and action, that allow you to affect the conditions around you to achieve the effect you desire. It’s what we refer to as ‘agency’—the idea that we are able to affect our surrounding, to make a difference in our environment and the environments of others. And just as tension, stress and focus allow us agency in the world, so too do they allow us agency in the Spirit.
Wherever there is tension, there is agency—especially in the purposes of God. It’s a good thing, but it’s up to us to keep it that way or risk losing control of the experience to negativity. Action becomes friction, and when that occurs we lose our agency. We are no longer effective within the Kingdom.
So how do we keep that balance—that tension—working in our favor? By continuing to be inspired and energized by it.
Stress has a tendency to bring negative feeling with it if over-indulged in, but there is a far more valuable perspective to keep in mind. Take the time to look at the stress and tension that you feel.
If people are a source of tension, don’t get involved in blame culture. Don’t treat those surrounding you as negative stressors. Take a step back into the Spirit and consider them. Are they suffering their own over-indulgence in stress? What can you do to help them? Because their friction is rubbing off on you, and vice versa, and it’s a simple truth that taking positive action to assist others reclaims your agency, and allows them to reclaim theirs.
Just as negativity can be contagious, positivity is viral.
Tension has a purpose, provided we can retain that positive momentum and energy. Take a step back.
- What can you get excited about?
- What encourages you to achieve?
- What makes you passionate, what makes you smile?
Be excited about tension. It means things are working! Convert those negative stressors into positive stressors.
After all, tension is agency in action.