This past Saturday, my wife, kids and I went to drop our oldest son off at college. I’ve talked with a number of parents who have gone through this experience and listened to their paradoxical words of joy for their child but sadness for themselves. I really thought I would be different. I’m thrilled that he’s moving on . . . or so I thought.
Similar to getting married, having children, or losing a loved one, you can never quite prepare yourself or know what it will be like until you go through it yourself. I am excited for my son—all the new things he will learn and friends he will make. But there is also a tinge of sorrow from this chapter in our family’s life coming to an end.
Many things that ring true are paradoxical. There is joy and sadness all wrapped up around the same experience like mismatched wrapping paper neatly tied with a recycled bow. In Jesus we find grace and truth, holiness and love, judgment and mercy. In the Bible we see the call to celibacy and marriage, fasting and feasting.
Christianity is dynamic and static, refusing simplistic answers while promoting a simple Gospel that sets us free. G. K. Chesterton wrote, “We want not an amalgam or compromise, but both things at the top of their energy; love and wrath both burning” (Orthodoxy, p. 92).
We must remember that paradoxical is not antithetical. Grace is not the opposite of truth. Holiness is not on the other end of the theological spectrum from love. The reason we can experience joy and sorrow from the same experience is because they both flow from the same heart. The paradoxical quality of Christianity exists because Jesus is the full embodiment of God and man. We believe in a paradoxical Triune God who chose to reveal Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If He is the Source for all truth, which I believe He is, then truth itself is paradoxical.
How can you be happy and sad at the same time? If your child runs away and then returns, how can you be mad and thankful in the same breath? How can you love your spouse while being upset with him or her for forgetting your anniversary? We’ve all experienced this, and it isn’t because truth can’t make up its mind. Our paradoxical emotions simply reflect the paradoxical God in whose image we were created. Rather than diluting truth, we uphold its solidarity of fullness. As one author put it, “[Christianity] dances through the history of Western thought” (Loving God with All Your Mind, p. 141).
The reason it dances is because it has much to celebrate. Primarily, the celebration is that Truth is not an ideology but a Person. And this Person shed tears and radiated joy. He was strong, yet gentle. He didn’t just claim to speak the truth, He said, “I am . . . the Truth” (John 14:6). Paradoxical? Yes. But this Person, Jesus Christ, has given us the incredible blessing of dancing with Him who is Truth. Isn’t that the chief end of humanity, according to the Westminster Confession of Faith? “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Amen.