Embraceable inconsistencies

Posted on Wednesday 27 May 2009

I’m neat. Not freakishly, compulsively neat – but orderly. I like things to make sense. It pleases me when one thing logically follows another. Like when the conclusion of a good book somehow affirms its beginning. Or when I intuitively reach for something in the place it should be…and it’s there.

But while there’s comfort in finding things as you expected, where you expected – there’s also something a little thrilling about the odd placements of life. Like the single azalea that bloomed in my hedge more than a month after the thousands of others had faded and fallen. Or opening the newspaper last week and seeing that the predictable-as-rain sports section has been completely redesigned. Or that my favorite neighborhood coffee shop has stopped making pistachio muffins and begun experimenting with cranberries.

Just when you think you’ve got the story down pat…just when the routine becomes sweetly ordinary, God seems to specialize in shaking up the mix a bit. In a movie review I read recently, one of the actors was asked if the audience was meant to “like” his character – whether he was meant to be a “good” person or a “bad” one. He replied, “As an actor, I have always felt there is a risk in trying to reconcile everything about a character. You must embrace the inconsistencies.”

That last phrase intrigued me enough to tear out the paragraph surrounding it, and leave the scrap of newsprint on my bedside table for later pondering.

Embrace the inconsistencies.

Do you suppose a road closing could be an embraceable inconsistency? Or a harsh word from a normally gentle friend? What about a snowstorm in April, or a last minute gate change at the airport?

And if I could learn to embrace the smaller, relatively painless inconsistencies in life, do you suppose I could ever learn to love the larger ones – so that, like the apostle Paul I might one day say “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us…always carry[ing] around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed…”?

Maybe so. I hope so.

I’d like to embrace weakness so that strength can be showcased. I’d like to embrace emptiness so that fullness might be wildly celebrated.

I’d like to do this because I’m the beneficiary of one of the most illogical, unpredictable, unexpected inconsistencies of all: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2) And, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins…but because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ.” (Ephesians 2:1,4)

That’s an inconsistency I can’t hope to get my arms around. But I’m not about to stop trying.

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