“Pray that, above all things, the gates of light may be opened to you; for these things cannot be perceived or understood by all, but only by the man to whom God and His Christ have imparted wisdom.” –Justin Martyr
An oxymoron is a figure of speech in which two terms, which appear to be contradictory, are used in conjunction. Perhaps you’ve heard a few of these examples: resident alien; good grief; pretty ugly; working vacation; passive aggression; government intelligence.
A paradox is similar. A paradox is reasoning from two acceptable premises which seem to contradict, but when investigated proves to be true.
Pulitzer Prize winning poet Carl Sandburg turned the phrase: “There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud.” That’s a paradox—and there are times we all feel that way.
There’s an old 16th Century Puritan Prayer called the Valley of Vision which recalls some of those paradoxical truths Jesus taught:
Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights; hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory. Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess all, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision. Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine; let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death, Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin, Thy riches in my poverty, Thy glory in my valley.
The Gospel is, itself, a paradox, for in dying, we have life! “Jesus answered them, saying, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal’” (John 12:23-25).
And concerning how we’re to live this life, we’re to be lost so we may be found: “He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 10:38-39).
How do the paradoxes of God’s truth strike us? How do they inform the way we respond to God and live before others?
My prayer this week – Father, thank you for these powerful truths! Will you reveal yourself to me in these paradoxes this week as I meditate on the Puritan prayer and consider your wisdom and majesty?