Living in the Tension


I’m learning, in writing as in living, that sometimes we just have to live in the tension.

I completed two writing assignments in the last few days and am beginning a larger one – a book.  Today I woke up with a feeling of dread . . . I don’t really know how to begin.  I have a title, a preface, a tentative table of contents, many ideas.  But I am creating something out of nothing but ideas.  How do I get this out of my head and on paper? What’s the process?

I learned today that waiting is not always procrastinating. Waiting is just what it says, standing down.  Most of us hate waiting.  Who wants to stand down?  We have an idea or a job or a “thing” and we want to forge ahead, get it organized, follow through, and, often most importantly, move on.

For people of faith, and especially for people who write about faith, living in the tension is about recognizing the Source of the inspiration and covenanting with that Source to stay in tune, in touch, waiting for direction.  Like a child who has just planted a seed, we want to dig around in the dirt before it is time.  Is it growing?  How far along is it?  Do I need to re-plant?  But the only thing to do is to live in the tension . . . and wait. Though it’s a cliche and not always a pleasant one for “go-getters,” it’s about the journey, not the end product. We can’t make a seed grow faster, and we can’t solve a problem by attempting to fix what we don’t understand in the first place.

But it’s not just about waiting.  It’s about recognizing powerlessness and turning the idea or the job or the “thing” (and especially the writing) over to God.  We take the step we know to take, surrendering, and then live in the tension.

This morning, I decided just to go back to bed (it was 5:00 AM; I most often write in the early morning). That didn’t seem like progress; it seemed like failure. But instead of sleeping, I just lay there ruminating. I realize that a cow’s process of digestion isn’t a beautiful metaphor, but it really works here. I brought up all the ideas I had in my head about the project and just sat there with them, chewing them over and over and asking God, “What do I do next?”  After 45 minutes a simple solution came to mind – a way to get started. It was so simple, I wondered why I hadn’t thought about it before. But then I hadn’t waited for direction or surrendered the control before.

I know that I have only taken one step forward in this very long process of writing a book, but that’s really the only step I need to take.  In writing, as in life, it’s all about being willing to live in the tension – once again.

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