A big part of the idealism that I have had to let go of has been the desire to eliminate tension. Idealism convinced me that life could be easy and trouble free if I just lived according to the “rules” – the right principles. When there was a problem – the thing introducing tension – it could be analysed, diagnosed and attended to… a little like the way a mechanic has a look at your car, works out why it won’t start, then gives you a quote to effect the repair.
Is life as simple as that?
My experience is that to be faith-ful means to live with tension. There may be things we can do to relieve tension – and I would totally support that kind of effort. Tension can get too much… for sure! But some things just can’t be resolved with one quick dose of Diagnose-and-Repair.
A present example: Having children produces huge tension in my life. I love Ruben. Check out his web-site here: rubenm.iscool.net He has recently turned 2 and I am proud of him. In fact, there are moments when I delight in him in a way that surprises me.
But he also is difficult. He is strong-willed, passionate, incorrigible, and a whole lot of other things that remind me of someone I know. He is able to produce emotions (like anger) in me in ways that scare me. I’m not blaming him for the anger – it obviously arises out of me – but he is certainly the catalyst. He also produces difficulty in my relationship with Elaine, the person I am married to. We love each other and respect each other in so many ways. But Ruben seems to expose all the tender points in our relationship, especially the things that we are not in agreement about. When it was just the two of us, we lived with a high level of tolerance of our different views. I thought we were mature and respectful. But Ruben seems to worm his way behind our respectful and tolerant façade, and gets us engaged with each other over various issues that we probably wouldn’t have brought up otherwise.
I love my child, but he’s a real challenge to my sense of self. In some ways he is a darling and in other ways a selfish little terror who wants nothing except his own way. I love him and I resent him, at the same time. Huge inner tension.
Somehow, I don’t sense the tension is going to suddenly be relieved. Of course, I’d welcome any helpful advice from people who share the struggle of child-rearing… (actually, I might get irritated by anyone offering advice, but try me anyway - I’m desperate) But even great advice is not going to relieve the tension immediately, and probably not even entirely.
Maturity, faith-fulness… these are qualities that for me are forged in the midst of the tension.