There is a man who sits in a chair on the side of the driveway in our apartment complex. I think he spends 90% of his life just sitting in his chair next to the driveway. Most of his time is spent reading the Bible, and the rest is split up between sharing words of wisdom and words of encouragement. I usually really enjoy stopping and talking with the sitting man, but today when I passed by I had a schedule to keep. I had planned a nice and polite "Hi!" as I walked by, but this would not work today.
It wasn't the sitting man who held me up, but his neighbor who was standing out there talking with him. Or maybe talking at him. When she addressed me, I didn't want to be impolite, so I greeted them and engaged in conversation.
Finding out that I was heavily involved in a church (from my mission trip t-shirt), the neighbor started talking about helping others. This conversation moved into how she helps care for a poor and desolate man, and that moved into how my church could probably help care for him and help him financially. Once I recommended a non-profit that could provide assistance in this situation, she started talking about her own financial struggles. I knew that this new line of conversation would go the same direction as the first one and end up with her asking our church to help.
I tried to leave a couple times, but regardless of how many times I said "It was good to see y'all, but I've got to go," she kept talking to me. She only ended the conversation after I made it a good fifteen or twenty feet away.
I walked away from the conversation frustrated, twenty minutes behind schedule, and flustered about poverty and the church. As I was reflecting on the experience, I was reminded of an old Campus Crusade for Christ leader I had named Todd Stewman. He would explain that we are in a constant state of tension when dealing with God.
You are in this world. You are not of this world. Somehow you are both.
Jesus is 100% man. Jesus is 100% God. Somehow he is both.
I felt that tension today. I was frustrated that I was held up and had to rearrange my schedule. At the same time, I know that Jesus' ministry was mostly taking the time to stop and talk with people. I think I am called to both.
I am called to sticking to my schedule, keeping the commitments I have made to others. I am called to stop and talk to others and to show them Jesus' love. Somehow I am called to both.
I also felt that tension when the neighbor started talking about finances. I feel like half the time people find out I am associated with a church, they start asking for money. No church can give away all it's money and survive. At the same time Paul tells Timothy to care for the widows and orphans.
The Church is called to care for the widows and orphans. A church has to be shrewd with it's money to not go broke. Somehow a church needs to do both.
I am called to feed the hungry, to give to the needy, to go the extra mile. I am called to provide for my wife and my family. I am called to do both.
I think this is intentional. I think that this tension gives us sojourners a space to converse about these things. I recently attended a class on wisdom literature. The thing that stuck with me from the class is that wisdom is not a few words that are said and finished, but an ongoing conversation amongst a group of people. "How do we do this? What does it look like to struggle with this?" In this scenario, like many others, maybe asking the question is just as important as the answer.
When you feel that tension, lean into it. Have a conversation about it, not an argument that often goes nowhere. Have an open and respectful conversation with people you know and respect, or even with those who have new, strange and differing opinions from you. Find the wisdom that comes from this conversation and from this tension.