a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.
a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction
A paradox is a logical puzzle that seems to contradict itself. An oxymoron is a figure of speech, words that seem to cancel each other out. Any way around it… they hurt our brain and yet we love to use them!
Do any of these sound familiar?
- Amazingly awful
- Clearly confused
- Deafening silence
- Jumbo shrimp
- Only choice
- Painfully beautiful
- Random order
- Small crowd
- Sweet sorrow
- True myth
- Walking dead
- Weirdly normal
Those oxymorons are things that should NOT go together and yet they fit together perfectly to convey reality!
If Facebook memes can teach us anything, we like a good paradox too. Give these ones a try:
“Sometimes we have to let go of what’s killing us even if it’s killing us to let go.”
“You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress simultaneously.”
“When you’re in a dark place you sometimes think you’ve been buried. Perhaps you’ve been planted. Bloom”
I’m gonna admit there are times when this type of meme has me rolling my eyes and groaning… that is UNTIL those paradoxical statements hit home and I’m ready to buy the shirt, carry the coffee mug and share the meme with all my friends. Because… those paradoxes are powerful as they speak truth and hope into some deep hurts and struggles of life.
Interestingly enough, the gospel of hope we have in Christ can look like a paradox that sounds foolish, unlikely even to many who hear it. 1 Corinthians 1 says that the very message of God is foolishness to those who are perishing yet power to those who are being saved.
27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
What paradoxes in the Word of God have you confused? Which parts of the wisdom of God have you wondering how it could possibly be true? Which parts of God’s power at work, no matter how unlikely, give you great hope?
The two seeming paradoxes that continually challenge me are found in Luke 9 and John 15. Reading my blog you wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Luke 9 on that list as verses 23 and 24 end up in many posts. (You can click on these to read some of my thoughts: raise your white flag; The Heart of a Fighter; surrendering your strength; is it enough?; worth the risk.)
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
The imagery in this passage is beautiful: Jesus as the vine and we being the branches. The life-giving connection, the support, and the promise of fruitful living draw my attention… so much so that many times before I chose to skip right over the paradox. Maybe I didn’t want to face the hard but true and therefore good reality of this verse:
…while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
That right there is the paradox that I all too often don’t want to face. It is hard enough to think about God cutting away branches that don’t bear fruit is hard because we know Jesus isn’t just talking about vegetation… he is talking about people. It is hard to think about how we must remain in Christ, hard to face the reality that in order to bear fruit we must continually strive to remain firmly in the will of God.
That takes hard to a whole new level.
I can understand the process of pruning.
Pruning is the process of cutting away dead or overgrown branches or stems to promote healthy plant growth. Most plants, including trees, shrubs and garden plants like roses benefit from different methods of pruning and maintenance.
The life-giving paradox of pruning is that for healthy plant growth, most plants need to be pruned (cut back, trimmed, clipped, lopped off). To grow best, they need some of their growth cut off…
We understand when pruning means removing the previous years’ dead blooms. We understand when trimming results in cutting away weak or damaged branches.
But what about when pruning cuts away healthy parts? What about pruning that seems to take away all of the beauty and thick foliage leaving nothing more than a stump?
What about pruning that looks like that?
It is hard enough to stomach and believe it is for the good of a plant… much less a person.
“ He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. ”
Sometimes even things that are good and fruitful need to be pruned for new growth.
That my friends is the tough paradox. We know it is hard but we accept when God prunes away things that lead to death in our lives but what about when God prunes away things that look good in our lives? Can we trust Him even then?
Scientists have long studied plants and their growth, this statement got me, “Scientists have shown that the main shoot dominates a plant’s growth principally because it was there first, rather than due to its position at the top of the plant.” If God has given us wisdom to understand this about plants, how much more should we trust that he knows what we need as God prunes us?
And we come back to it:
Lord, help me to want what you want for me.
Whether what he wants is to remove things from our lives that are bringing death or he is removing even what seems good for our best and His glory… Lord, help us to want for us what you want.