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Transformation: Unhurriedness and Changing the Way We Think (Embracing Both-Ands)

Transformation Blog: Readings from Learning to Live and Love Like Jesus



Transformation: Unhurriedness and Changing the Way We Think (Embracing Both-Ands)

Brandon Cook

Unhurriedness as the core commitment of The Slow Life means creating space to contemplate God’s mercy so that we can escape our egocentric thinking.  Such thinking is almost always Either-Or.  If I become successful, I’m “in.”  If I’m not successful, I’m “out.”  It's all about how well we can do and how well we can prove ourselves, so we can be powerful on our terms without having to be dependent on God for any one else.  We live in a culture in which we are trained to think in such terms: how much money do we have, how many "likes" has our Instagram post gotten, and on and on. Thus, we grow up trying to minimize all of our weakness and maximize all of our strengths.  This is always the dominant pattern in any culture, while the way of God will mean existing focusing not primarily on success but rather on fruitfulness.  Fruitfulness only comes from becoming open to God, and becoming open to God means humbling yourself into a new way of thinking, replacing Either-Or with the capacity for Both-And thinking.

I am saint (I’m adopted) AND I’m a sinner (I’m not whole and cannot be whole on my own).

I’m unworthy AND I’m fully loved. 

I’m unsorted AND yet God has said “yes” to me.

Scripture always points us to embracing these sorts of paradoxes, probably because then we learn not to have everything perfected sorted, which is the only posture in which we can come to God.  Consider these examples from Scripture and tradition:

Proverbs 26:4 tells us, “Don’t answer a fool according to his folly.”  Then in the next verse, we are told, “Answer a fool according to his folly!”

Jesus says that if you deny him, you will have no part with him (John 13:8), and yet Peter denies Jesus, and Jesus restores him (John 21)!

Furthermore, God is Three and One.  Jesus is human and divine.  God is sovereign and we have free will.  Truly, paradoxes abound.

When we can accept such paradox, we leave behind the pursuit of "having it all figured out" and enter into the mystery of God's love.  We are free, further, to acknowledge both our successes and our failures without allowing either to define us. We can acknowledge that our identity doesn’t come from success but from God, and that God holds all of us, including the shiniest and the messiest parts. 

Practically speaking, we expand our capacity to think in Both-Ands (and thus, move more fully into the mercy of God) either by suffering or by engaging spiritual practices. Suffering convinces us not only that we aren't in ultimate control but that we are finite, and that God is still intimately with us in our weakness.  Spiritual practices, like silence and prayerful contemplation, is likewise an acknowledgement of our limitation and our weakness.  It is moving into a dependent state, where we acknowledge we don't have everything figured out. This is not natural for any of us, but with practice, we can expand our capacity to sit in awe and wonder and tension, opening us to God and, ultimately, to freedom and fruitfulness.