Culture likes to set up a lot of either-or situations and questions. And there are certainly spaces where either-or choices have their place. (As a parent of young children, some mornings I’m not sure we’d ever make it out the door if I didn’t limit the choices to “either x shirt or y shirt.”)
Yet, again and again, I’ve found that “both-and” spaces offer the most fertile ground for truth to thrive, growth to take hold, and complex problems to be solved.
Unfortunately, holding both-and situations and solutions, tensions and truths is a spiritual capacity that many of us—myself included—haven’t spent much time cultivating. Likely that is because “both-ands” often require us to stay in zones of uncertainty and embrace the reality that sometimes things simply do not fit in clear categories.
Still, Christian scripture (and undoubtedly the sacred texts of most, if not all, faith traditions) invite us, again and again, to embrace “both-ands.”
Even, and especially, in the ways we seek to describe the divine, scripture pushes us to honor “both-ands.”
God is our rock and fortress (Psalm 18); God is a careful gardener (Genesis 2); God is a mother
(Isaiah 49 and 66) and a father (Matthew 6 and Luke 11); God is a shepherd (Psalm 23); and the list goes on…
Further, in most Christian traditions, when we celebrate God’s claiming and love for each person in the sacred ritual of baptism, we affirm that God is both father/creator, son/redeemer, and spirit/sustainer. God is both-and-and…
God in God’s very self embodies both-and tension and truth. And so must we.
We must do so not only to nurture faith that can truly seek after the both-and fullness of who God is and who God desires us to be, but also because our world and the challenges we face are complex and often interwoven.
Take, for example, mental health and wellness (as this is Mental Health Awareness Month). Mental health and wellness, and mental health challenges are not simple realities. Many factors play into mental health including physical health, our environment, social connections, our sense of belonging and purpose, financial wellness, and more.
As we become ever more aware of the mental health challenges and struggles that so many people of all ages are facing, seeking both-and solutions will be key. We need both more mental health providers and more resources to compensate them justly.
We need to both reduce the stigma related to mental health and make it easier to navigate networks of care and support. We need to both cultivate belonging for all people and embrace the focused work of inclusion and welcome required to support people in historically excluded and marginalized groups.
May we all find space to honor and embrace “both-ands”. And may that space nurture us in the both-and truth of who we are, in the both-and truths and solutions of the world, and in the both-and truths of the divine and of our faiths.
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