You’re supposed to breathe deep when you stretch.
I was in a stretch class last Sunday, my legs hovering over the ground in a split position as I silently preached this to myself.
“Breathe into it, Vivienne, relax….” the mantra so counter to all that my muscles were feeling at the moment.
There was this book I read a while back, Anesthesia by Kate Cole Adams. It started off with a narrative of a woman undergoing a C-section without anesthesia due to a malfunction.
The only way she endured, she said, was by burrowing into the pain. Instead of rejecting it, you dive into it until it envelopes you, like amniotic fluid in a womb.
I stopped reading it after that narrative; the concept too frightening for me to grasp.
And yet, stretched out in this uncomfortable position while the teacher showed no sign of discomfort or wanting to end this stretch anytime soon, my mind flickered to that story.
Instead of trying to avoid tension and distract my mind with other things, what if I sink into it?
The default, I believe, is to avoid tension.
I was faced with it multiple times this week. Reading Isaiah, its pronouncements of judgments against entire nations and God promising to wipe out even the infants, made me squirm inside.
How does the wiping out of a nation (with innocent children) demonstrate both God’s mercy and justice?
At the mosque, I’m asked questions like – if Jesus was God, why didn’t he make it more obvious?
Why didn’t He explain the concept of the Trinity plainly if it is so central to the Christian faith? And how does that even work – how can you be one God, and three separate persons?
Is it one, or is it three?
As I said, tension.
There was the testimony sharing time at the mosque – during which a Christian shared about how she prayed to ask God to guide her to the truth. Then, she opened the Qu’ran, felt a sense of inner peace and took that as God’s guidance to become a Muslim.
If God is God of the Bible, that couldn’t have been Him as He wouldn’t confirm a book that is contradictory to the teachings of the Bible.
And yet, if she genuinely was praying for guidance, why didn’t God guide her to the truth?
We try to explain it away in nicely packaged answers like “but God always has a good plan,” or “He makes it work out okay in the end”.
In our attempts to pretend the tension isn’t there or perhaps make ourselves feel better about discomfort.
In fact, simplicity is one of the major reasons the Muslim women cite to back up their faith. There is one God, and we obey Him – it’s simple and makes sense, they say.
But what if tension isn’t a bad thing, and simplicity not always a good thing?
What if we were made to live in a constant state of tension, the way our cells are held together by osmotic pressure?
I’ve been challenged this week to sink into tension.
That instead of reducing complex notions into bite-size quotables, I’m breathing deep into my state of not knowing.
My PhD project got revamped this past week, and meetings with my co-supervisors plus the endless reading of papers from my field have resulted in more questions than solutions.
I’m floundering for something solid. To be sure before I commit to another round of experiments.
And yet, as I read “Reasonable Faith” by William Lane Craig, I’m increasingly convinced that we can only know things to degrees of certainty.
Never fully sure, but still acting on what is more probable.
The situation not fully settled, but choosing peace anyways.
My mind flickers back and forth – wanting to have full control and know everything, to being at rest even in the midst of uncertainty and tension.
“OK, now relax into Pigeon Pose.”
I finally fold my front leg in; my body bends over it in relief. But now, my breaths are deeper, my heart more grateful.