Life is constant dichotomy.
That's what I've learned in my 18 revolutions around the sun. The contrasts in life are what keep us awake, alive, and kicking. They're also what keep us shouting, crying, and pointing fingers. Dichotomy. Often, these divides represent things we desperately need, but desperately push away. Things we crave, but fail at achieving. Things we desire, but fight against. Things we pull towards us while simultaneously pushing them away. Allow me to show you what I mean.
Every human being walking this planet craves love. We need it, we seek it, we ache for it. And yet, we seem to be a lot better at hating. Our loving skills are lacking, but our fighting skills are in tip-top shape. Although we need it, we fail at it. Although we seek it, we utilize anger. Although we ache for it, we are willing to kill for it. We dream longingly of love, but inevitably drift towards war.
Every hungry soul traversing the earth today wants peace of mind. We're all sorting through the tricky questions and thirsting for resolution. We want to know, not simply guess. And even with the desperate need for peace of mind, we are a species that runs away from quietness and rest. We're constantly busying ourselves with technology. We're always blasting music in our homes, at work, in our cars, and straight into our ears. We need to be stimulated in some way, so we carry screens with us wherever we go to connect us with the world. The art of quieting our hearts has been abandoned. Perfect solitude is a foreign concept. Stillness is alien. Silence is deafening to our overstimulated minds. The cacophony of the surrounding world is what we've tuned into, and can hardly tune out of.
Maybe we confuse it with happiness, maybe we don't. One thing is certain, though: we all want joy. Nobody desires sorrow. Nobody searches for depression. We all dream of the fulfilling, overflowing joy that we see in the put-together lives of fairytale characters. And yet, we destroy our chances of joy every time we invest in this world. While we see the tragedy and depression that follows the famous and the fortunate, we chase blindly after those same ambitions. We strive for popularity and wealth, even though all the evidence in the world proves its happiness is limited and its pleasure is temporary. We continue to obsess over what we know will break our hearts, and we ignore the things that have been proven to uplift and encourage. We return, again and again, heartbreak after heartbreak, to the things that bring us down... believing that maybe this time, they'll lift us up.
Nobody wants to live an empty life. In fact, the fear of meaningless living is what motivates so many to take their own lives out of the desperate feeling of pointlessness. And even though this desire for purpose nags at our spirits, we so often settle for convenience, routine, and predictability. The mundane becomes not only acceptable, but seemingly, "All there is." The lives of our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents seem to be handed down to us, and so many people figure that it's all there is to life. Eat, drink, sleep, then die. While purpose is what we want, pointlessness is what we predict and fulfill for ourselves. We see fulfillment as being idealistic, and empty living as the only possible reality.
Life is filled with constant dichotomy. Jon Foreman of Switchfoot comments on this paradox in the song, Hope is the Anthem:
Sometimes what you need is what you fight,
like a wounded man out on the run.
These dichotomies set up the groundwork for this beautiful mess known as humanity. The things we want, we push away. The things we hate, we cling to. The things that benefit us, we run from, and we cleave to what hurts us. Love and hate. War and peace. Joy and sorrow. Faith and doubt. Friendship and rivalry. Sacrifice and selfishness. Unity and disarray. Agreement and conflict. Calm and chaos. Freedom and Bondage.
And seeing as the very fabric of the universe is woven from the threads of these polar opposites, it can be so overwhelming to find ourselves in the mix. Every religion, every self-help book, every motivational TED Talk... they all give us their own methods with which they attack the contrasts. They give us their lenses through which they view the divides, and attempt to build bridges to span the gaps. But after we've exhausted every one of these methods, we find that all we've been able to construct for ourselves is an even bigger hole. This is our Catch-22.
The bridges we try to build and the methods we try to employ will always be destined to crumble. They're crumbling even before we begin construction. I know in my own life, my attempt to bridge the gaps and make sense of the rifts always leaves me more tangled and confused than before. I try googling the answers, I ask everyone around me, and I turn to every option except for the One that actually has the answer.
You see, there is another dichotomy. One more intense, more extreme, and more divergent than any other. It's the dichotomy of the person of God. Perfection became sin. Innocence became guilt. Judge became judged. God became man. First became last. The One who deserved to live, died, while those who deserved death, received life. The Creator was destroyed by the created. The Giver of Life was given death. The Highest Being took on the lowest form. The God who needed nothing chose to rescue the failures. He chose to save the lost causes. He became sin... who knew no sin, that the sinners would become righteous.
And He's written this story in such a way that if we only accept its Truth, we are able to cross the divides without fear. He becomes the ONLY way to receive that which we need without fighting it. Through Him, it becomes clear that to receive Love, we must give it away. To have Peace, we must completely let go of all control, and allow Him to intervene. To find Joy, we must refuse that which the world offers to make us happy. To discover our purpose, we must abandon our own plans and goals, and adopt His plans and goals.
The divides are still there, but while the lost souls of the world continually wander on either side or fall through the abyss, those who have been made alive with Christ see the fine line of balance. They walk the tightrope binding the contrasts together, ever-leaning on the everlasting arms. They conquer the overwhelming odds and understand the relationship between the two sides because of the insight that comes from the Holy Spirit.
They get to walk side-by-side with the One who designed this reality. They get the inside scoop on all those paralyzing decisions that obstruct our paths. An internal counselor who guides and directs. They're given the manual to the universe from the One who made it, and His name is Emmanuel.
...Or should I say, Emmanual?