As I’ve pondered this week some of the characteristics of Jesus and the ways in which he relates to us, I’ve come to realize that Jesus Christ is in fact a study in beautiful contrasts. He is, if we were to use our language, nothing less than a paradox. And I absolutely love that about him. He is not confused—rather, he is so secure that he can live in the tension of being two things at once. At times he willfully restrains his power and ferocity as a lion in order to gain our hearts as the gentle lamb. But when he is the lamb, he is no less the lion. When my heart begins to understand this phenomenon, those are the moments when I feel the most secure, the most loved. Because nothing can stand against the gentle fierceness of my God.
He is a servant and a master. A man, and the God of the universe. Still waters, and a tempest. A lover, and a warrior. Jesus said that the meek would inherit the Earth. This is because those with the greatest strength are the ones who have learned to willingly lay down their right to power. Insecurity bows to meekness. Meekness is strength under control. Wisdom and peace all wrapped up in love. It is power that does not lord over other men. This is how Jesus is different; this is how he turned the world upside down. Though no one truly had authority over him, he laid down his life anyway, because he wasn’t worried about how people viewed him. He knew what his Father said, and he knew the truth of his identity, and that was enough. So he learned obedience through suffering even though he could have clung to his equality with God.
As a result, the world was redeemed and introduced to a brand of love it never understood before. What can compare to this kind of love, this kind of paradoxical power?
When we see this kind of love, the kind that Jesus demonstrated in the laying down of his life, our hearts can’t help but respond. Because it resonates and awakens a God-placed desire deep within us. Most of us don’t particularly like tension. Tension makes us uncomfortable, causes stress, and it just makes life plain hard. But again—what I love about Jesus is that he demonstrates such strength and grace in the midst of this tension he holds between his power and his gentleness. This is a tension that shows off the character of his heart. If what we need is tender whispers, he holds back his ferocity, even if it takes ten million tiny assurances into our ear to get us to finally turn to him. He doesn’t flaunt his strength out of frustration when we don’t respond to him. He is willfully patient, because he cares about our hearts.
What we must realize about tension is that it holds things up. Think about it in the natural—a flimsy rope or an improperly secured pole doesn’t hold anything. It is the tension that brings about the security of the building, or the stability of a climber.
Tension offers safety.
I believe that in the embracement of the tension between two seemingly opposite personality traits, there is a beauty that emanates from the heart of Jesus that nothing can compare to. It is in the presence of this stunning character of our God that our fears fade away. Because, you see, fear is afraid of him. And insecurities become insecure when they meet his gaze. I’m not sure how to further explain this most strikingly beautiful paradox of who God is, so I’ll go ahead and leave you with this poem:
A lion’s mane surrounds my ear
Subtle shuffling from the breeze
Warm breath—soft from a restrained roar
Holding me fast
He does not crush
Only whispers persist
To tell my heart it is safe
He will breathe by my side,
Dispel darkness with lullabies,
Touch my face again
Until my feeble fears dissolve
And when he turns
His eyes swallow what I knew
This can be the only sight that is true