Peace Within Paradox
We tend to like things that are clearly defined, especially in our modern technological world where most things can be proven or disproven. However, there are many situations in life where things co-exist and, much as we would like it to be different, sometimes we don’t fully understand. Take for instance, life and death. Much as we enjoy living life to the full, we can never totally blank out the fact that death is never too far away. Even a good meal, which is enjoyable, may have involved the life of some animal being taken for our nourishment and enjoyment. Apologies if you are about to sit down to your dinner.
Earlier today I lingered a moment to admire the rusty red colours of the leaves of a tree. All around us these autumn colours put on a dazzling display in the October sunshine. Sometimes, if we are up early enough, they can be enhanced by a sharp white frost. Quaker author Parker J. Palmer writes about being at peace within paradox by using the example of autumn:
It’s a season of beauty but also of decay. We like the vivid display of colourful leaves but we fear the sense of loss that piles up with each one that falls. We like the fruitfulness of berries and ripe apples but we fear the mulch of mud and leaves underfoot that reminds us of where we must physically return in the end. The themes of autumn…speak to us year after year of the cycle of life and death. We like the idea of life, and we do not like the idea of death. No wonder, then, that we have mixed feelings about autumn!
In his book, ‘Soulfulness’, Brian Draper enlarges upon Palmer’s words by saying that a life without autumn, even with all that it entails, would be a life without colour. Whether we like it or not we live in a world of living and dying, dying and living. It is all part of life’s rich tapestry. As an old poem says:
‘Not ‘til the loom is silent, and the shuttles cease to fly, shall God unroll the canvas and explain the reason why. The dark threads are just as needful, in the weaver’s skilful hand. As the threads of gold and silver. In the pattern, he has planned.’
All of this is not to say that living at peace within the paradox of life and death, as demonstrated through autumn, is a kind of spiritual state of mere acceptance without struggle. Draper makes the point that some of the most spiritual people he has known have walked with a limp. They have been wounded along the way. But, somehow have managed to live through their pain and sorrow with an assurance that they are part of something bigger than them.
Such people have found the painter of the autumn leaves. The potter of life from clay. The author and finisher of our faith who, paradoxically, has walked this way himself. Could he have changed the script, altered the canvas, reshaped the pot, perhaps? One day we will know. But for now we can live in the present with the reassurance that we are part of God’s great plan. With the knowledge that, Autumn turns to Winter, Winter to Spring and Spring to Summer!
1 Corinthians Chapter 15 – The Message- by Eugene Peterson
47 The First Man was made out of earth, and people since then are earthy; the Second Man was made out of heaven, and people now can be heavenly. In the same way that we’ve worked from our earthy origins, let’s embrace our heavenly ends…
53 In the resurrection scheme of things, this has to happen: everything perishable taken off the shelves and replaced by the imperishable, this mortal replaced by the immortal. Then the saying will come true:
Death swallowed by triumphant Life! Who got the last word, oh, Death? Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?
It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God!
|by B. M. Franklin|
Parker J. Palmer, in, Brian Draper, Soulfulness: Deepening the Mindful Life, (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2016), 177-178
 Draper, Soulfulness, 178-179