Tonight marks my final night home for Thanksgiving break. As it all draws to a close, I have some observations.
The first is that people are really good. They are loving. They are kind. People are good.
The second is that people are really hurtful. They are inconsiderate. They are demeaning. People are bad.
The third is that I am also good and bad. I am considerate and inconsiderate. I am kind and demeaning. I’m a paradox.
“Elaborate, Garrett,” you say? Okay, but this is going to be difficult to follow occasionally. You’ve been warned, I guess.
People are so good. Sometimes they give you tangible things, like food and money. Sometimes they give you other things like love and hope and encouragement, which are the more valuable things.
People are so hurtful. Sometimes they imply that you are wrong for your life not being exactly like their own. Sometimes they choose to be selfish. Sometimes people leave you feeling inadequate and unimportant.
I am both good and hurtful. I like to give people things, but sometimes I end up giving people things like a disapproving look or disdain. I am so selfish, and at the same time, I care so much about others in my life. In the same conversation I can communicate encouragement and inadequacy. And that is… confusing, to say the least.
This week has been all about dealing with people. And I don’t mean that in a hateful way. I love to deal with people. I’m somewhere around 85% Blue personality type (Color Code/Motive Matters, if you care to know more), which means that if I don’t get to deal with people, my life feels like it is falling apart. I am motivated by intimacy. This means that breaks are really great for my relationships with my family and friends back home, but horrid for my relationships at school. Mentally, emotionally, and physically, breaks are so good for me. Mentally, emotionally, and physically, breaks are also so bad for me. It’s a paradox.
This realization made me consider so many other paradoxes in my life this week: I am both outgoing and a homebody. I want to get away and to be in one place. I want to do new things and still do the same old thing. Etc, etc.
The point is that I don’t understand myself. I don’t understand people. Basically, I don’t really understand.
And this is alarming! I mean, how am I supposed to do good when I also am not good? How do I challenge myself while enjoying where I am? What does it mean to love others unconditionally and yet have healthy boundaries? And don’t say, “Balance.” That’s about as much of an answer as telling someone whose arm was just ripped off that they should go to the hospital. Unless they were completely unfamiliar with the concept of hospitals, then that is not a helpful statement. I’m familiar with the concept of balance, but that doesn’t help me in these moments.
And just when I start to get sucked into a never-ending conundrum of both self-pity and self-hate, I remember something.
My God is a God of paradoxes, and He balances them all perfectly. One God, but Three Persons. The Uncreated Creator. Servant King. Enthroned in heaven, yet He dwells within me. Unseen, but more real than anything else in this life. Both merciful and just. To believe in the Gospel of Jesus is to accept all of these paradoxes and more.
How does this help me? Well, for one, it means that even if I don’t understand myself, it is okay. He understands me, which is enough peace for me to sleep at night.
When I accept that God’s understanding is enough, then I start to see my paradoxical self differently. I see that each paradox within my own life is kind of a miracle.
Even though I can hurt others better than most, I am also good. Even though I can demolish a person’s confidence, I can also encourage them to persevere through the night. Even though I am still a full blown sinner, I am somehow declared innocent and free. Even though I should be doomed, I am heading to glory one day.
And suddenly, I realize it. My problem of being paradoxical is actually the greatest thing about my life. If I weren’t a paradox, then I wouldn’t be the good. I would just be the hurt, the dirty looks, the selfishness. And so would you.
Whether we accept this or not, everything good is a gift of God. This means that our nonsensical duality is a sign of God’s love for us. And that leaves a truth for us to ponder:
This alarming truth of being paradoxical is also our greatest comfort.
And this nonsense ends up making sense. Go figure.
I love you. Good luck today.