Moving Forward by Embracing Tension

When I was a little girl (and quite honestly, even now as a "big girl"), I was not such a fan of tension. In my younger years, tension came with arguments and raised voices and uncertainty in relationships. 

As an adult, tension is bigger than relational arguments. Tension as an adult comes with questions.  Am I people person or a task oriented person?  Do I need structure or flexibility? Do I need to make decisions with logic or trust my gut feeling? 


As a strategy based thinker, I tend to look at things in life as problems to solve. There can be a right way or a wrong way to solve this problem. It's either/or and not both/and. It's black and white. 

But what if I told you that challenges in life are not always a problem to be solved but can be a tension to be managed?  


My latest tension has been one that has been dogging me for a while.  I've acquired this skill in copywriting and web design, but I really want to focus on my coaching business. Up until this point, I've been thinking of it as either/or. Either I put coaching aside to develop a web design/marketing business OR I keep stepping into the coaching business and leave my copywriting knowledge behind. 

If you know me at all, you know I've gone back and forth on this for over a year.  Swinging a pendulum to either extreme. And even recently, I was thinking no to websites and yes to coaching. 

And then, through a series of events, website business started coming a little more naturally which made it all the more confusing. What's a girl to do? 

And even further then, I came across this podcast and breathed a huge sigh of relief. 


In this podcast, Don interviews Tim Arnold about living with healthy tension.  Tim's premise is this.  Life is not a problem to be solved.  You know what?  Maybe you're thinking, duh.... Or maybe like me, that phrase gave you permission to stop trying to solve every problem with either/or.  Maybe like me, that phrase gives you permission to rest in the unsolved and in the tension that there may not be a solve. 

I loved this interview because it gave me permission to acknowledge there may not be a right way or wrong way to do my business.  It gave me permission to say maybe I'm supposed to be both a web designer/marketing guru and a life coach.  It gave me permission to stop solving and start living. 

Which brings me to you, my friend? What life tensions do you need to embrace?  Tim and Don gave some examples so I'll just leave some here for you to wrestle with. 

Examples of Tension

Candid vs. diplomatic
Structure vs. flexible
Individual vs. team
Task oriented vs. relationship oriented
Freedom vs. accountability
Logic vs. gut feeling
Confidence vs. humility

Maybe you have a totally different tension you're living with.  Tough love vs. grace or one career over another.  Whatever your tension is, embracing it will help you move forward. 

Tension in the Bible

So is idea even Biblical?  Good question.  While I believe that there is right and wrong in the Bible (obviously), our heroes of the faith dealt with some tension.  One look at the psalms will remind us that life is not a simple equation but a lot of both/ands.  My first thought of tension was David and Jonathon.  Called to be the next king, David knew that stepping into his calling meant taking the role his best friend was supposed to inherit.  

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Or Paul and Barnabas. We just studied this in our Faith Coaching study. Paul and Barnabas disagreed.  They could have chosen to compromise and solve it to move on together.  Instead, they separated (which was also a solve) but lived with the tension of new partners and advancing the gospel in disagreement.  

Jesus, himself, wrestled with the tension of wanting the cup to be taken from Him, but knowing His primary mission and desire was to be obedient unto death. 

Embracing Your Tension

Here's the deal.  You and I, we're probably not going to die over our tension, like Jesus.  But holding onto this idea that there's only one way or we need to solve it can hold us back.  

“Binary thinking is the enemy of creativity. ”


The more you and I feel like we need to choose one over the other, the less likely we are to move confidently forward. I don't know about you, but my own binary (either/or) thinking has kept me stalled in making decisions, follow God's lead, and creating the life I really want and think God is calling you to. 

So how do you and I go about embracing our tension?  Tim had some tips in the podcast that I'm totally stealing, but I think would be helpful. 

1. Identify your top tensions in life. Tim calls it crux tensions.  Potato vs potaaaato.  Basically, these are issue or decisions that keep coming back.  In companies and organizations (or maybe even your family), it's those issues that make you want to say, "I can't believe we're talking about this again."  For you as an individual, maybe it's those decisions you keep wrestling with over and over - even after you've made a decision. 

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2. Identify why it matters. Your top tensions are probably already over things that matter to you.  But indulge me anyway.  Take some time and write down why these tensions matter.  How will embracing this tension help you move forward?  How is trying to solve them holding you back?  What would taking on a new perspective look like in this area?  

3. Embrace your tension.  At the end of the day, embracing my tension of both a life coach and a web design/digital marketing person gave me permission to do both and not feel guilty about it.  I can do both and more forward.  No apologies.  No thoughts that one is the right path and one is the wrong path. Only thoughts that I can step into who God created me to be and use all my gifts in a path that's uniquely designed for me.  

Which brings me to you.  To be honest, you may be reading this and thinking your tension is way bigger than a career or business path.  Maybe your tension is about those you love.  Your family.  Your kiddos.  Maybe it includes grieving a person or a dream. Maybe it involves your health or your home. 

Wherever you are and your tension is, God is in the middle of it. As much as God provides clarity, he also works in our tension.  When you and I don't know what to do.  When we're faced with an either/or.  When we feel like we need to solve a problem.  God is bigger than that problem and has a bigger perspective than we can even fathom. 

One foot faith trusts God with the tensions we can't even begin to understand.  One foot faith brings our either/or decisions to God. God cares about the life challenges you are needing to solve. God's job it to lead us. Our job is to follow where he leads - even if where He leads is right in the middle of a tension to be embraced.  

Hey friend!  I'd love to hear from you.  What kinds of tensions is God asking you to embrace right now? Comment below or send me a message.  I'd love to pray for you!