Learn­ing to live with the in­com­plete

The Tatura Guardian - - Community - — Brian Spencer, Min­is­ter, Tatura Unit­ing Church

There is a lot to like about the mind­ful­ness move­ment and its em­pha­sis on liv­ing in the present mo­ment and re­duc­ing stress; but lately there have been sev­eral Face­book posts that ir­ri­tate me be­cause of their ad­vice to re­duce stress by do­ing less and do­ing it slowly.

Such ad­vice sounds good, but it is not the way my life works.

I can’t re­mem­ber when I last had a job where I got to the end of the day or week and could knock-off know­ing that I had got ev­ery­thing done that needed to be done.

It’s not just ‘‘a woman’s work is never done’’. That say­ing can ap­ply to most of us. Life seems to be a se­ries of un­com­pleted tasks or on­go­ing projects, but that doesn’t mean I am nec­es­sar­ily stressed.

Dur­ing the years, I have de­vel­oped an ease about un­fin­ished tasks and projects that just seem to go on for­ever.

To some ex­tent it is about pri­ori­tis­ing the tasks, so that the most im­por­tant things get done, but it is also about de­vel­op­ing what has been de­scribed as a tol­er­ance for am­bi­gu­ity.

Tol­er­ance for am­bi­gu­ity can be de­fined as the de­gree to which one is com­fort­able with un­cer­tainty, un­pre­dictabil­ity, con­flict­ing di­rec­tions, and mul­ti­ple de­mands.

Some peo­ple may be born with a nat­u­ral predilec­tion to­ward tol­er­ance for am­bi­gu­ity, while for others it de­vel­ops over time through ed­u­ca­tion and ex­pe­ri­ence.

Am­bi­gu­ity ex­ists in dif­fer­ent de­grees and for vary­ing pe­ri­ods of time within our fam­ily and work­ing lives.

It may arise when sit­u­a­tions or prob­lems oc­cur that have no sim­ple or sin­gle an­swer.

Some­times it is about eth­i­cal un­cer­tainty when the line be­tween right and wrong be­comes blurred.

If we have a high level of com­fort with am­bi­gu­ity then these things will not stress us to the ex­tent that they will if we need clar­ity, cer­tainty and com­ple­tion.

I think Je­sus has a great tol­er­ance of am­bi­gu­ity.

The Gospel sto­ries seem to be Je­sus re­spond­ing to one in­ter­rup­tion af­ter an­other.

Typ­i­cally, Je­sus is try­ing to go about his busi­ness when some­one ap­proaches him with an ur­gent re­quest, a dif­fi­cult ques­tion, or he is chal­lenged by one of the con­ser­va­tive com­mu­nity author­i­ties.

When he wants to get away to pray, the crowds fol­low.

When he wants to spend time with his dis­ci­ples teach­ing them, they fight over who is the great­est.

The sick, the out­cast and the des­per­ate con­tin­u­ally in­ter­rupt his day, but in each case, he re­sponds to the need at hand and is truly present for those who need him. Talk about multi-task­ing. No doubt other things don’t get done, but this is how the king­dom of God ap­pears in our midst.

It breaks in when we don’t ex­pect it, when we are un­pre­pared and we never feel we are wor­thy or have played our part well.

Learn­ing to live with the in­com­plete, the messy, the im­per­fect, and not get­ting stressed about it, strips away our pre­ten­sions, for we too are in­com­plete, much less than per­fect and our lives and re­la­tion­ships can be messy.

Maybe we will get around to fix­ing ev­ery­thing up and com­plet­ing things and maybe we won’t. In the mean­time, we live un­der grace. God’s un­con­di­tional love and grace is suf­fi­cient for our in­ad­e­qua­cies and in­com­plete­ness.

This is the gospel, and it’s good news.

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