The Art of “Both”
What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also. – 1 Corinthians 14:15 (ESV)
Paul is an expert at paradox. Whether it is the flesh or the spirit, the law or the gospel, or the spirit or the mind, he likes to answer questions using the word “both.” Both flesh and spirit, both law and gospel, both spirit and mind befriend him.
Most of us need to learn the art of paradoxology. Way too many of us have advanced degrees from institutes for the study of complexity. We hem and haw. We are canners: we kick the empty can down the road because we really don’t know what to do. We live on cannery row.
I even play tennis that way. Every ball I hit is a decision. “Don’t overthink it,” I’ll say to myself. Then I’ll say, “Know exactly where you want it to go before you hit it.” Like most tennis players, I miss more points than I make.
Even gardeners self-doubt and get stuck on one side of a paradox or another. Some people think that tilling hurts soil. Other people think that tilling helps soil. The only way to find out is to do an experiment. I am planting half of the garden this year without tilling and the other half with tilling. This will be a fully scientific experiment. I will evaluate at harvest.
Back to Paul. How do we find the energy to respect science and emotion, or reason and intuition? How do we ever get free of the can-kicking problem?
By praying with all that we have, which includes spirit and mind, that’s how.
Double your gifts to us, O God, and teach us how to pray all the puzzles of our lives.
1. Can you identify a paradox that is puzzling your life these days – perhaps an “either/or” debate in a relationship, in politics, in faith, or even in the garden? How might you answer the puzzle with “both”?
2. How do you respond to the author’s questions, “How do we find the energy to respect science and emotion, reason and intuition? How do we ever get free of the can-kicking problem?”
Donna Schaper is Pastor at the Orient Congregational Church on the far end of Long Island, New York. Her most recent book is I Heart Francis: Letters to the Pope from an Unlikely Admirer.