Jamál, 18 Sharaf (Honor), 178 B.E.


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The spiritual journey sharpens and magnifies our sense of contradiction. And should it not be so? The wholeness of the Spirit contrasts dramatically with the brokenness of our persons and our world. The truth of the Spirit only highlights the untruths we are living. Indeed, the ultimate contradiction is the apparent opposition between God’s light and our own shadowed lives.

For some of us the contrast between God and world is so great that we abandon the spiritual quest. We turn away from God’s brilliance and walk in shadows because we do not wish to see ourselves in an unbecoming light. For others, the tension is resolved by disowning the dark world and trying to live in a bright but private realm. We hold the world at a distance and seek out situations which satisfy our need to stay “pure.” In one way or another, we remove ourselves from the great dramas of life where God and world interact, where contradiction abounds.

But there is a third way to respond. A way beyond choosing either this pole or that. Let us call its “living the contradictions.” Here we refuse to flee from tension but allow that tension to occupy the center of our lives. And why would anyone walk this difficult path? Because by doing so we may receive one of the great gifts of the spiritual life—the transformation of contradiction into paradox. The poles of either / or, the choices we thought we had to make, may become signs of a larger truth than we had even dreamed. And in that truth, our lives may become larger than we had ever imagined possible! 1

  1. Palmer, Parker J. The Promise of Paradox: A Celebration of Contradictions in the Christian Life. 1st Edition, Ave Maria Press, 1980, 18-19. [return]