Tension

This may be something unique to myself— but have you ever thought of dissonance as a feeling or emotion to be experienced? Dissonance typically means a lack of harmony in music, but another definition from Oxford languages is  "a tension or clash resulting from the combination of two disharmonious or unsuitable elements.”

“A tension or a clash.”

I think we usually associate tension as being a hostile feeling and think of times when we’ve felt uneasiness when we have an opposing viewpoint from someone or have experienced anxiety. This anxiety could be situational or it could be a lens through which we are perceiving events and information which then becomes the framework as to which we process everything.

What if we reframed how we view the word tension?

A result of us choosing to be followers God and walking the narrow road (Matthew 7:13-14) is transformation:

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” - Romans 12:2
 
“The renewing of your mind.”
 
I think a lot of times we think a natural result of intaking scripture and consciously making decisions that are counter to the culture of the world we live in will lead to a miraculous transformation that will leave our old selves unrecognizable. We think we will be gaining these new mindsets and that we’ll have new ways of carrying ourselves that will resemble “the ideal Christian.” And as I reread that as I write, I’m audibly saying “oof.”
 
There are some instances where God is so, so kind to us and redeems things in our lives that would only be possible because of His grace, but I also think He invites us to step into a dissonant place with Him where contrasting thoughts and beliefs go head to head and bring about refinement. When we ask God to help us do the hard heart work, and replace lies with truths and let ourselves ask where the thoughts we currently believe don’t necessarily line up with the beliefs we might have held onto for years and years, He opens up space for new mindsets and understandings. This can help reshape and transform our beliefs to be grounded more in what God says to be true rather than a lie we believe or what we wish were true.
 
“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” - 2 Corinthians 3:18
 
I think the greatest physical representation of this can be shown in the formation of mountains. Here is a description from the American Museum of Natural History’s website: “Mountains form where two continental plates collide. Since both plates have a similar thickness and weight, neither one will sink under the other. Instead, they crumple and fold until the rocks are forced up to form a mountain range. As the plates continue to collide, mountains will get taller and taller.”
 
When two ideas, such as patience and restlessness, or contentment and disappointment, come to a tense point and begin to push up against one another in our minds there is a friction. That friction in turn produces fruit when we find in the middle what we can test and discern to be true through God’s word in scripture and the Holy Spirit inside of us.
 
Another way God presents tension is in the way He created us.

“So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law, but I see another law work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.” - Romans 7:21-23

The nature of our human flesh desires things that directly contrast the ways our Spirit delights in doing the things the Holy Spirit calls us to do, creating a tension in the patterns of the ways we choose to act and the mindsets behind our behaviors.
 
One of my favorite books is Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard. It is an allegorical story about spiritual growth that follows a girl named Much-Afraid as she leaves her family the “Fearings” and journeys to the high places (or new degrees of glory) as she is guided by the Chief Shepherd.
 
In the beginning of the story, the Shepherd plants the seed of love in Much-Afraid’s heart. Before the Shepherd puts the seed in her heart, Much-Afraid asks if it will hurt since the seed appears to be very sharp. 
 
“He answered gently, ‘It is so sharp that it slips in very quickly. But Much-Afraid, I have already warned you that Love and Pain go together, for a time at least. If you would know love, you must know pain too.’”
 
It can feel incredibly heavy to think about having to bear pain and heartache and also rest in the fact that you are so deeply loved by God and you are also capable of loving Him so deeply and loving other people.
 
“She woke suddenly an hour or two later, her mind intensely alert, conscious of an agonizing pain such as she had never known before. The thorn in her heart was throbbing and aching in a manner she could scarcely bear. It was as though the pain was hammering out something which at first she was still confused to understand.
 
Much-Afraid then experiences a hard clarity as to the thing she had been wrestling with before she had fallen asleep that seems to come to her in a flash. This difficult reality check cloaked in tension, but also in honesty, allowed her to take the risk to embark on a journey of growth and strengthening with the Chief Shepherd.
 
I think sometimes breakthroughs can come in a flash, but a lot of times I think tension boils up and we experience a slow process of restlessness with conflicting thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. 
 
This past week I felt a heightened awareness in noticing tension and seemed to experience instances of it every day in so many different contexts. I see this friction as I read different kinds of books, in the things we as a staff are praying for and the things I am personally praying for, in teachings, and in the things I am trying to process and understand. I have been so astounded by the ways that God has opened my eyes to this and the way the strange longing feeling that comes with dissonance has shown itself to be incredibly beautiful in the fruit and refinement that has been beginning to stir in my own heart.

Author | Emma Kate Shelton 

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