The Oxford Dictionary provides the following definition:
- the state of being stretched tight.
- mental or emotional strain.
In the physical world, tension is created when a pair of opposing forces are pulling in opposite directions. Think tug of war, stretching a rubber band or plucking a guitar string.
In the inner world, tension is created in much the same way, only instead of ropes, bands and strings, it’s mental and emotional opposing forces that do the pulling. Think walking into a room where there is conflict, and you can “feel the tension” or a change in jobs where in order to accept the new position, you first have to have the resignation conversation.
We live with varying degrees of tension, or stress, pretty regularly. And while it’s common for everyone to experience tension in some form from time to time, it’s not healthy for body or mind to carry it for too long without some help.
So why all the talk about tension smack dab in the center of Holy Week?
This day is sometimes referred to as “Silent Wednesday“, because, unlike the other days leading up to the crucifixion, not much is recorded about this day. There are some things we can surmise, just from what we know about Passover preparation and the other events before and after today, but, honestly, I like this day a lot. I like that we get to pause….reflect…catch our breath….and prepare for the last stretch of this journey with Jesus.
Most of all, I’m led to imagine what this day was like for Jesus, knowing that he experienced the physical, mental and emotional human world much as we do. So it’s not too far a stretch to imagine some of the ways Jesus may have been experiencing this day, knowing what tomorrow would bring….
The tension between heaven and earth wasn’t new to Jesus – he had to have felt it in some way every day, and perhaps, even more on this day. All week he has been walking the couple of miles from Bethany, where he was staying with Mary, Martha and Lazarus to Jerusalem. Each morning step toward Jerusalem was a step deeper into the tension of those who sought to betray and destroy him, and each evening step back toward Bethany had to have felt like laying down at least some of that as he returned to the warmth of acceptance, love and the family he found waiting for him there.
On this day – Silent Wednesday – Jesus knew there would be no more traveling from here after tomorrow. He would rest his head in peace for the last time, and meet the end of his human freedom the next day in the garden he loved, betrayed by one he also loved.
What must that have felt like for him? Did it cross his mind, if only for a flash, that he could go the other way and simply avoid what was to come? Because he could have….but he chose to remain in the tension between heaven and earth on our behalf, because he was the only way we could be saved, and he wasn’t going to leave us behind.
Are there areas in life where you are, even now, “living in the tension”, with no clear path in sight, but believing that it will work out in the end – that God is still faithful even when you can’t see?
Yea….me too. And certainly not for the first time!
What I’ve learned is that so much important, valuable and holy work is done in the tension that can’t be accomplished any other way. It’s where our faith digs deep and our hearts are stretched to believe bigger in God’s love for us. It may not be comfortable, and God knows we’ve no desire to stay in those places a second longer than we need to, but I take comfort in knowing that Jesus understands what it’s like to believe what we can’t see. Better yet, he’s promised to be with us and guide each step, even as we live and trust him “in the tension.“
Trusting with you,