Creating Beauty Out Of Tension

Tension. Some of us face it almost every day, in every situation we find ourselves in. Many of us experience it in our relationships, but a fair number of us also experience it as a deep internal struggle.

For me, this tension often arises when I find myself pulled in different directions, by communities which each demand something from me – family, work, church, ministry, friends/social groups – how can I be fully present in each one, and be fully ‘me’ in each place?

For those of us in the marketplace, the greatest tension we experience is found in the supposed dichotomy between the secular and sacred – what do I do when my work environment requires me to be a different person from who I actually am in church?

As creatives, a sense of excitement often surfaces in us as we consider the gifts we have been given to steward and how we can contribute to and shape the narrative of the world around us through our creative works. But this quickly translates into an equally compelling sense of lost-ness as our circumstances threaten to put this excitement down – it can be overwhelming, paralysing, but most of all, frustrating.

In this confusion, we know in our heart of hearts that we are called to live on a different paradigm from what we often experience day to day. As Jon Foreman writes, “I want to thrive, not just survive”.

How do we live in this tension? How can we learn to thrive?

Like most musicians, I take to an instrument to find some answers to these questions. And so, I pick up the guitar – only this time, the answer is found not in the music, but the instrument itself. The guitar (as with most instruments) functions because of tension – it creates beauty out of the tension. The very design of the guitar carries the tension of the strings in precise placement and tuning, making it as optimal as possible for music to be produced from it.

The strings are wound tightly, and anyone who has been hit by a snapping steel string would tell you that it is indeed very ‘high-strung’. Yet you don’t see guitarists shy away from holding the instrument – they’ve mastered the art of proper tuning and playing the instrument to create beauty out of this tension.

X Conference - Tune Our Hearts

We often shy away from the tension in our own lives, desperately praying that it will resolve and dissipate in time. It could take days, week, even years, or it may never subside at all. Perhaps it’s not meant to. Perhaps we are meant to live in the tension and create beauty from it. If so, then our focus must shift away from getting rid of the tension, to managing it well; even taking possession of it and mastering it, tuning our hearts so that we may be postured to create the melodies that our lives were meant to release.

Jonathan Cho