There are days when I believe a rubber band is the best analogy for my human existence. It often seems like I’m being emotionally pushed, pulled, stretched, twisted, and even warped in every possible direction. Within any given day I sometimes feel like I experience more polar extremes than Antarctica. On those days I sense a tension between the adverse emotional and spiritual forces that is confusing and quite uncomfortable; living in both joy and sorrow at the same time for example.
Tension typically has negative implications. Whether we are referring to physical, emotional, spiritual or relational tension, there is rarely a positive connotation. Tension is defined as “stretching or straining,” which, like the usual association, sounds excruciating. It signifies pain, distress, or stretching — like a rubber band. By this definition, one would think tension should be avoided at all costs.
Yet when I hung my shower curtain on a tension rod a few days ago, I realized the audacious strength of its tautness as it is balanced, suspended and supported all at the same time. There is no apparent strain; rather it appears solid and secure as it simultaneously presses and grips firmly from one side of the room to the other. It effortlessly carries the delicate curtain from top to bottom and side to side, allowing the curtain to dangle loosely from the tension rod’s unyielding grip.
This observation reveals a tension in the meaning of word itself. Tension can be defined and experienced as an imbalance or a counterbalance. Maybe it’s as simple as how we choose to define it. Perhaps it requires a shift in perspective in tense situations. Do I choose to view myself and my experiences like the rubber band or the tension rod? Am I really being stretched, twisted, and warped, or am I being lengthened and strengthened?
I doubt my life will ever be free of tension. For example, there will always be forces pulling me towards experiences of and choices between work and play, self and other, good and evil, and joy and sorrow (and many other extremes in between). I can’t escape the tension; it’s built into the very fabric of life, even at the atomic level where it creates energy. What I can do is recognize that I have the choice to view my tense circumstances either as painful curses, or as counterbalances to the many blessings that I have received simultaneously. Like the tension rod which provides a strength and a harmony, my delicate soul is effortlessly carried in God’s unyielding grip.
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