This post is not about math
I remember watching a friend solve a math problem in high school and seeing them write out all of the decimal points from their calculator, type them all back in and using them for the next section of the problem. Being the know-it-all that I was I argued that you could send a rocket to the moon using only three decimal points and that they really didn’t need to write all of that out and type it back in.
I can’t vouch for everything that I said at that point (can I get a citation on that moon landing info high school Jeff?) But, I think there was (mathematically speaking) a certain level of sense. The goal of the problem was a whole number, maybe with a couple of decimal points, we didn’t need to retain all of that other information to find our way to a much simpler solution.
But, what if the solution that I desired was more complex?
The older I’ve gotten the more I’ve begun to appreciate complexity. And even though I stopped taking math courses in second year university, I am still thinking and wrestling a lot with these ideas of rounding. In my life, in my ministry, in my theology, I often want to find rest in the spaces of tension between the discreet and defined groups. I don’t want to be a 2 or a 3, I want to be a 2.7–still entirely able to call myself a 2 but also able to fit in and hangout with the 3s.
I think that there is immense beauty in the ability to rest in these liminal spaces. Standing at the threshold of two different ideas and occupying the space between, simultaneously part of neither group but belonging to both. I think that Jesus often occupied these strange in-between places of greater nuance and complexity in his own teachings and I think my own ability to be in these places is one of the greatest strengths of my own ministry. But, Jesus also took very clear and strong stances on the things that mattered.
That is where I struggle.
See, it can be so empowering and beautiful to exist in the in-between but it can also be crippling. The tagline of this blog is finding rest in tension but along with that rest I’ve also found complacency. I’ve begun using complexity as a shield that helps me to say a lot of things without saying anything at all.
It’s like I’m clinging to all the extra decimal points and choosing to discuss them without ever returning to significant digits, without stopping to round.
I’ve avoided writing on this blog for over a year now. This isn’t for lack of wanting to write, I have started many posts and left them sitting because they may be too controversial, they may push people away, they may cause readers to perform a rounding error when it comes to me.
But, I can’t allow that fear to paralyze me anymore. I can’t wait until I’ve absolutely picked sides to finally start sharing my perspectives. If my goal is really continued growth then I should be doing the difficult work of inviting you–whoever reads these things–into this in-between space of wrestling along with me. I’m never going to have the level of certainty that I’m looking for and sometimes I’m even going to come out and say things that are wrong. I’m going to round off too much and have to go back a few steps in order to move forward.
But, I’m learning that many of the theologians and pastors that I admire said lots of things that they later disagreed with. I think that they look back on these thoughts not with regret or resentment but as a reminder of where they were and an invitation to have grace with others wherever they are on their journey.
I hope that is what I’ll be able to do.
I hope that I’ll be able to have grace for the previous incarnations of myself, remembering that I was doing the best that I could. I’m doing the best that I can. And maybe, just maybe, future me will be able to look back and learn or remember something forgotten of value.
Above all else though, I really hope that sharing will help myself and those around me to grow.