“Both/And” Not “Either/Or”

Lately it seems I have been in a lot of conversations about the presence of paradox in our lives.  I don’t know if it is our Western mindset or our desire to make things as simple as possible, but it seems to me that life seems to present a great deal of “both/and” possibilities rather than the simpler “either/or” option.

I see this especially in our spiritual lives. Are we supposed to work as if our future is determined by us or are we supposed to pray as if everything is up to God? Augustin once said: “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” This is an age-old struggle which cannot be completely solved in one short post (it wasn’t even solved in six seasons of the television show LOST).

In the Scriptures we see so many examples of people taking personal responsibility and a willingness to trust God (and several that didn’t do one or the other).

  • Terah, Abraham’s father, was on his way to Canaan, later known as the Promised Land, but he stopped in Haran and died there. What if he had made it all the way there?  Abraham would not have needed to leave his family to go to the Promised Land because he would have already been there. Is it possible God promised Terah the same thing he promised Abraham, but Terah stopped halfway there? (Gen. 11)
  • God promised Abraham and Sarah a child. They took matter into their own hands when Abraham got his wife’s servant pregnant (at Sarah’s insistence). Eventually, God’s promise was fulfilled and Sarah had a child in her old age. Obviously this could only happen with Abraham and Sarah having sex. God made a promise, but they had to act on that promise.  (Sorry for the image there, but this is a really good example of “both/and”).  See “Having Sex With Hagar” for more on this story.
  • God intended to punish the wicked people of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Abraham was able to negotiate with God and save some of those within the area (Genesis 18:16-33).
  • Lot was told to go to the mountains, and he was able to request a new location (Gen. 19:16-22).
  • Abraham’s servant went to Nahor to find a wife for Isaac, and he prayed God would help him find her (Gen. 24:10-26).

I am sure there are plenty of other examples of “Both/And” versus “Either/Or,” can you think of others?

How can we take full responsibility AND trust God fully as we navigate our lives and create the future?

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