A guitar string, a trampoline, a rubber band, an electrical pole – what do they all need to work? Tension. I believe that we need tensions in our life too. Not the kind that make us crazy stress monsters, but another kind . . .
Tensions aren’t bad in and of themselves. They just are. All leaders have the ability to live within some tensions. This is a leadership lesson, and all of us as disciples of Jesus are called to disciple someone – so we’re all leaders. Nehemiah contains some of the best leadership lessons in the Bible. Nehemiah led a group of exiles to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem while facing intense opposition and demoralization on every side.
And we see that Israel’s two greatest enemies, Sanballat and Tobiah were still hanging around at the close of the book providing constant tension against Nehemiah and God’s people – Yet God’s work moved forward. Without those two jokers we would have a really boring story without many leadership lessons at all. It’s even possible that the work would have gone slower – hmmmm. What we know for certain is that it pulled out the best in Nehemiah. Here are the principles of tension . . .
- Tension is needed to pull some things forward. If a tow cable is always slack, nothing gets moved forward. There are tensions in our relationships, like hard conversations that are built to grow us into better people.
- Tension is needed to hold other things up. Electrical poles don’t stay up long without their cables, and those cables would be on the ground except for, not one, but two opposing poles providing tension. Jesus said to love God and love our neighbor – all the Law and Prophets hang on these two (Matt 22:40). If you only love your neighbor and not God the whole thing falls apart.
- Don’t rush to relieve tensions. Living in certain tensions will produce growth that won’t come any other way. People’s default to the isolation button, or the find new friends button will never produce the kind of lasting growth that God requires. That’s why it’s only in community with other people that the body of Christ is truly His body, His bride. Jesus is not coming for a group of isolated people who profess faith in Christ, He’s coming for a community of believers. Living in that community requires growing through tensions sometimes.
I’ve talked with 6 people this week who needed to hear about God’s purposes in tensions, it’s become obvious that God is speaking this to our body right now. Lean in and grow :-).