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The Paradox of Drawing Together While Apart

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.’”  Mark 9:35

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him.”  1 Corinthians 1:27-29

“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it.”  Matthew 16:25

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.”  James 4:10

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I find the paradoxes of the Christian faith to be fascinating to study—and to experience!  The upside-down logic, or counter-intuitive thinking, or truth that is somehow self-contradictory causes me to pause and ponder.  Knowing the great truth that “What is impossible with men is possible with God” (Luke 18:27) allows me to grasp, as best I can, the huge paradox of the perfect, sinless Son of God dying on the cross for my guilt and shame.  Nancy Guthrie writes in The One Year Book of Hope:  “The Cross is the grand paradox that provides the foundation for the unsettling paradoxes of the gospel—Jesus’ teachings that we must be poor if we want to be rich, mourn if we want to be happy, give everything away if we want to be rich, die so we can live.  Only in the shadow of the Cross do these paradoxes begin to make sense to us.”  (p. 250)

Probably my favorite prayer, using the paradoxes that were so well-understood by the Puritans, is from The Valley of Vision:  A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions:

“Lord, High and Holy, Meek and Lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
   where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
   hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox
   that the way down is the way up,
   that to be low is to be high,
   that the broken heart is the healed heart,
   that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
   that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
   that to have nothing is to possess all,
   that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
   that to give is to receive,
   that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
   and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;
Let me find thy light in my darkness,
   thy life in my death,
   thy joy in my sorrow,
   thy grace in my sin,
   thy riches in my poverty,
   thy glory in my valley.”

Perhaps the most glorious paradox that we have witnessed in couples experiencing deployments has been to observe how they have drawn closer together while living far apart.  This can only be accomplished in the love demonstrated in the cross of Jesus Christ—in that sacrificial giving of oneself that puts the other’s interests above our own. 

For example, we have heard couples share that it is during deployment that they are able to write letters which capture how much they truly appreciate each other; it is during deployment that they are able to pray for each other in ways which are overlooked during “normal” living; it is during deployment that the priorities of life come into clear focus; it is during deployment that opportunities to serve others take on a whole new importance; it is during deployment that they can see first-hand the utter futility of self-pity and the peace that comes with contentment; it is during deployment that evaluating past mistakes can make way to resoluteness for the future; it is during deployment that God can meet them at a spiritual level when loneliness could give way to despair; it is during deployment that fears can be conquered. . . .and the list can go on.  No one hopes for separation during war-time service, but the reality is that this global war on terror has demanded tremendous sacrifice by our military families.  The fact that couples are looking for ways to make their marriages stronger and more intimate in the face of these challenges of separation and danger is a bit of a paradox that is excellent—and praiseworthy! 

 “Our work as God’s servants gets validated—or not—in the details.  People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly. . . in hard times, tough times, bad times; when we’re beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating; with pure heart, clear head, steady hand; in gentleness, holiness, and honest love; when we’re telling the truth, and when God’s showing his power; when we’re doing our best setting things right; when we’re praised, and when we’re blamed; slandered, and honored; true to our word, though distrusted; ignored by the world, but recognized by God; terrifically alive, though rumored to be dead; beaten within an inch of our lives, but refusing to die; immersed in tears, yet always filled with deep joy; living on handouts, yet enriching many; having nothing, having it all.”  —2 Corinthians 6:4-10 (The Message)

Guthrie, Nancy.  The One Year Book of Hope.  Carol Stream:  Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2005.

Bennett, Arthur, editor.  The Valley of Vision:  A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions.  Edinburgh:  The Banner of Truth Trust, 1975.

Questions to Share:

1.      In what ways can draw closer to your spouse during this deployment, even though you are apart?

2.      In what ways can you draw closer to God during this deployment? (Psalm 46)

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