Cheers to Those Who Lean Into the Holy Tension

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I know this great guy. He used to be a camp counselor at a camp I regularly speak at. He’s just announced that he’s going to run as a state representative to the Pennsylvania General Assembly. If elected he’ll be the third youngest person ever sworn in. When he personally told me he was going to run he laid out how the opportunity presented itself and then told me, “So I leaned into the tension as you once told me and here we are!”

Yesterday our Missionary Momma Sarah celebrated her 40th birthday and shared part of her story of her great adventure she’s been on since since felt the tension.

Sarah’s husband Kevin was at one time a teenager in my youth group. He was always that one who questioned everything and didn’t back down from a challenge. He loved/loves the challenge of following God! Including his pursuit of Sarah. I remember when he first brought her home to meet everyone. I fell in love with her instantly. What a match those two are.

I wrote this blog on Tuesday dedicated to the brave single women I know who are living their lives to the full with uncompromised souls even as they wish to be married. I was in particular thinking of this one fabulous woman at my church who truly lives in this tension and is so contagious to be around.

Yesterday one of my sons  went for his annual review at his prison. I am in the tension. He has long-earned a transfer to a more permanent facility where he can get a job and start college and basically be done with the holding pattern of serving time (what that does to someone’s mind!!!!). He is in the tension. He knows he has earned this transfer—yet again—but the system is rigged. The system will put an “override” on it with some lame excuse blaming him simply because there are not beds open. Then he gets another year of the same holding pattern. This annual review Kenneth is actually hopeful that he will get his earned transfer. He is not one to have too much hope for himself since he put himself into this prison system. But this year he does have hope. This is so good to see. But this also produces tension. May it be a holy tension where something holy does happen. He’s had to make so many Plan Bs because the system is broken. I feel this tension too. I feel this hope that Kenneth is having that has the possibility of growing even wider or the possibility of squashing his tender soul.

Which reminds me of the holy tension I was in 20+ years ago when this group of adorable yet scary rambunctious boys wanted to spend their after school and weekend time with me. Me who they knew as a substitute teacher. They were so clever in how many ways they finagled me to be in their neighborhood and in their homes. This produced a holy tension inside of me that I recognized and followed God through the mystery of it. I had no idea what I was doing! I never felt in danger but I knew that I could have been. I never felt in danger but I felt this was a big God thing stirring and I had to follow it through. Holy tension defined is the discomfort of being stuck in between but knowing that if you can make a brave vulnerable decision (or many brave vulnerable decisions) something holy is going to happen. Something holy did happen. One beautiful, life-changing weekend in December 1994 those boys chose to give their lives to Jesus. I knew that night that my life would be forever changed. I knew that these boys and I were a part of one big beautiful story together. I have always been grateful I followed through on this holy tension even though I truly had no idea what I was doing. Not knowing what I’m doing has consistently continued for the 20+ years since. Now that the boys are grown we talk about those early years and laugh. They can’t believe they pursued me, I can’t believe I was pursued, and they mostly can’t believe that I have still pursued through all the hells and victories we’ve had together. (Obviously there is way more of this story to tell but not today.) Like how I now get to feel this tension every year at this time awaiting for the system to do the right thing and help reform Kenneth. Talk about needing something holy to happen! On its own the prison system is incapable of this.

My life has been an adventure. Not the being-in-full-time ministry part of my life though that is adventurous. I have loved my career path. My adventure has been these sons of mine. And I’m not sorry for it. Not one bit. It has been the best decision of my life. (Though I hate the prison system! But how would I know that without being exposed to it thus the adventure.) These boys of mine have given me this brave life. In this brave life I have seen God up close love on these boys who the world would have given up on. I am changed. Of course, I had the choice to not follow this God-happening or to cut the boys loose after so many hells but I’ve chosen the adventure every time. I am changed. I am braver. And I feel like whatever life can throw at me I can handle because we have all chosen to be this family together. This is a Bravester life.

So here is to those who choose to lean into the holy tensions that following Jesus leads you to. You change our world. You challenge us. We admire you. May God continue to bless you on this great adventure.

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