‘For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses … For when I am weak, then I am strong’ – 2 Corinthians 12:10 (ESV).
Metaphors are word pictures – a form of figurative language in which a word denoting one subject or activity is used in place of another to suggest a likeness between them. We use metaphors all the time in speaking. Occasionally we consciously use a metaphor to more vividly convey a thought or point we want to make. At those times we carefully select the best word picture to convey our message.
One metaphor Christian’s use all the time to describe their Christian’s adventure of life is “journey.” The Bible itself is richly textured with this image – Abraham, the Exodus, the Exile and the return to Jerusalem, Paul’s missionary journeys – but you’ll seldom if ever hear the Bible referring to the life of faith as a journey. We, however, say things like, “In my faith journey, God has used so many circumstances to teach me.” We talk about God “walking with us” in hard times. We might say something like, “I’ve come a long way in my faith.” All these statements evoke faith as a journey. For many, journey is such a helpful metaphor.
But is our Christian life a journey? – hence the paradox.
Ralph Waldo Emerson linked the journey motif to the spiritual quest when he said, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
John O’Donohue suggests “If there were a spiritual journey, it would be only a quarter inch long. The eternal is at home – within you”
So, if life is a journey, then spirituality is an essential part of the time when we each feel united with God. It is a process of an unfolding dimension of transformation and change that takes place over the course of many seasons.
We could argue that this journey is in large measure an inner trek, a quest to find the mysteries at the heart of God, paradoxically nestled within the heart of our own soul. In fact, our journey is riddled with paradox, and people who want things in black and white, yes and no, good and evil, either abandon the faith or, misunderstand it.
A paradox is a pair of faith claims that appear to be contradictory. We are convinced that both claims are true, but we can’t fully understand how that is possible. Faith lived in that tension can however, be filled with hope and joy
The destination we seek is precisely where we begin our quest. The goal of the journey is, at least in part, to have no goal; the purpose is not so much to find God as to find ourselves in God. We can devote years to the quest only to find that, after all that time, we are still at the beginning of the path. These are just a few of the twists that we may encounter along the way. Bur those who have embarked on this pilgrimage soon begin to realise that each paradox is part of the beauty of the journey.
Let’s note some paradoxes we face as Christians.
- “the journey begins when we stop” – the beginning of our unknown adventure of faith.
- “true strength can only be found in weakness”-
- “our testing and temptations are blessings in disguise.
- “what we give up will be given back to us”
- “the less we do, the more we get done” suggests we replace the idea of being as “the place where doing happens” with the place where we find rest, and finally,
- “if you seek eternity, live in the here and now”
It’s precisely these healthy tensions created by each paradox that makes the life of faith worth living. That’s real living because it takes effort, courage and hope to live that kind of faith. The result is the energetic and creative pursuit of truth.
Paradox brings us face to face with the fact that we can’t know all the answers about life, but we can know the One who created it! – the humble path of acknowledging what we cannot know for sure, the path of placing our trust in a God we cannot see, the path of following Jesus who spoke in parables, who taught not vengeance but love, who understood that all language is metaphor.
Is God a paradox? – what people consider wise He considers folly, what people regard as madness and a stumbling block is wisdom in His eyes, what people see as weakness He considers strength, what people consider great He sees as small, and what they find small He regards as great.
My simple prayer: Lord grant us wisdom.