Truth Lies In The Paradox

Something about me has always had a need for deeper explanations, answers, reasons, and solutions for things.  I’ve never been one to just accept things at face value.  I don’t really think it’s an issue of trust, though.  Maybe I just have an inborn hunger for details.  Or possibly a compulsive need to solve things.  Who knows?

All I know is that I’m magnetically drawn to enigmas like mysteries, puzzles, riddles, cryptograms, spot-the-difference pictures, oxymorons, and pretty much anything that’s counterintuitive or not as it appears.  But my very favorite – paradoxes.

Very Few Answers Are Actually Black-and-White

According to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, a “paradox” is defined as:  “a logically self-contradictory statement, or a statement that runs contrary to one’s expectation.  It is a statement that, despite apparently valid reasoning from true premises, leads to a seemingly self-contradictory or a logically unacceptable conclusion.  A paradox usually involves contradictory-yet-interrelated elements that exist simultaneously and persist over time.”

Human nature seems to be drawn to what is often referred to as “black-and-white” thinking — good vs. bad; right vs. wrong; true vs. false.  So, the inherent nature of a paradox only adds to the confusion that many of us concrete thinkers already have when it comes to understanding God and His teachings.  Further, as we’ll discuss at great length throughout this book, internalized brokenness and shame from our past only heighten our demand for absolutes.  Anything less arouses fear and insecurity within us, which quickly translates into some familiar pattern of control, compulsivity, or perfectionism.

In stark contrast, King Solomon, known in the Bible as “the wisest man who ever lived,” says in Ecclesiastes 7:18 (NLT), “Pay attention to these instructions, for anyone who fears God will avoid both extremes.”

From the vantage point of paradox, we might deduce that the best and most important answers are neither black nor white.  But rather, a synthesis of both, that, fortunately or unfortunately, cannot be fully comprehended by our human minds.  Unlike the two opposite extremes that we are somewhat able to predict or control, the elusive space in the middle can only be navigated through faith.

Visual paradoxAddition by Subtraction

Prior to the amazing opportunity God has given me to be a Christian counselor, pastor, teacher, and author, I was very fortunate to experience a twenty-five-year career as a certified athletic trainer in Division 1 college athletics.  The pinnacle of those years was the opportunity I had to be the lead athletic trainer for the University of Michigan men’s basketball team during the historic “Fab Five” era — Chris, Jalen, Juwan, Jimmy, and Ray.  Sounds almost like how someone might describe the Beatles, huh?  Paul, John, George, and Ringo.

Well, these guys literally were the “Beatles of Basketball.”  Droves of people of all ages would line up for hours just to get a picture taken with them, or hopefully to have them scribble an autograph on their game program or t-shirt.  At the peak of this amazing ride, we actually had to sneak the entire team out the back doors of some hotels just so they could get to the team bus.  At tournament time, when we would stay several days in another city, security would be hired just to contain the crowds of fans that were willing to do almost anything just to get a glimpse.  Five eighteen-year-old true freshmen.  Two back-to-back national championship games.  Unprecedented, and still unduplicated.  Go Blue!

My Favorite Paradox Ever

As you might imagine, doing life through those years with these guys and these teams was an amazing ride.  Everywhere they went, I was there with them — every practice, locker room, bus trip, airplane, airport, hotel, restaurant, and game, as well as traversing more states and countries than I could even name.  As a team, we together experienced many of the highest of highs… and a few of the lowest of lows that big time sports had to offer.

I became very good friends with head coach Steve Fisher and his family during my years on his staff.  He was a wonderful man, husband, father, and coach, and he exemplified faith, class, character, integrity, and so much more in the way he conducted himself.  It was a great privilege to walk alongside him during my time in Ann Arbor.

One particular memory of Steve that I hold dearly is when he had called the team together on short notice for an important meeting in the locker room at Crisler Arena.  I assumed something big must have been going on for a meeting of this nature to have been called.  When there was a meeting, all team personnel were there.  And that included me.

I’ve slept too many nights since then to remember all that Coach Fisher said in that meeting.  But the one statement he said that I will never forget:  “addition by subtraction.”  I absolutely loved it!

It was his respectful, yet honest, way of saying that a teammate had made the decision to transfer to another NCAA Division 1 institution.  And apparently Coach felt that the chemistry of the team would be better without him.  Basically, he was saying, “Something was gained by something being lost.”  The perfect paradox!


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