When I was growing up, there was a funny little toy called Stretch Armstrong. Made of soft rubber and dressed only in tiny blue wrestler’s shorts with blond hair painted on, there was really only one thing you could do with him: stretch his arms as far apart as they could go. And Stretch Armstrong never broke, regardless of how far you pulled his arms apart, hence the name. Let his arms go and they would always come back to shape and the body would hold together. The center would hold.
I wonder what that experience was like for Stretch, having his arms pulled so far apart it seemed like he might come apart.
Actually, I know what that feels like. I know what it feels like to have your arms stretched so far it feels like your heart might split, because for many years I’ve tried to (and still do) hold two realities together that are both deeply true, but don’t easily reconcile.
In one hand I’ve gripped (or been gripped by) the reality that Jesus Christ is so very real, and in the other hand I’ve gripped the reality that the world is so very broken.
Trying to never lose sight of these two realities and hold them each with a tight fist, unwilling to let either truth go, sometimes makes you feel like your arms are going to be stretched beyond a breaking point.
I am not alone in holding a tight grip on these two truths, and wanting to live rightly and redemptively in response.
I bet you to do too. I’m not alone in feeling stretched by these two realities.
The first reality is Jesus Christ. Whether through simple faith, intellectual conclusions, a deep sense of need, personally experiencing God’s faithfulness, watching Jesus transform and satisfy our lives—we have come to agree with the Apostle Peter who said to Jesus, “We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6.69).
The second is the reality of the world—we live on a planet that is full of immense suffering globally, domestically, locally, relationally, and personally. The list to illustrate this fact would fill many books and rightly inspire much sorrow and outrage. One way or the other, we have touched and been touched by the sufferings of the world and around us in real, profound, and heartbreaking ways. We could be paralyzed by such reality, and do little in spite of our longings. Rather, we want engage these sufferings and injustices in the hope that somehow God might use us as agents of grace and redemption.
And I bet you, like me, want to live a faithful response to these two truths.
The faithful response to these two realities is to radically orient our lives around Jesus: to grow closer to him, to become more like him, and to be his presence in the midst of pain. At a quick glance, these seem simple enough, and intellectually they are. But they are not easy.
Almost nothing in our American culture encourages us to do this, to orient our lives around Jesus in such a conscientious and costly way. In the strong current of a culture that values accumulation over sacrifice, comfort over justice, consumption over compassion, tolerance over truth, and self over service, it is a challenge for those seeking to follow the Way of Jesus to actually follow in his Way.
That’s why we need community. That’s why we need each other. Another reality that is true is that, alone, none of us will live the life with Christ that we most deeply desire. Most likely and in most areas of life, left to our own devices we won’t live the way we want to without intentionality and community. We need the help of others, and we need the help of a framework for a spiritually disciplined life.
Coracle is currently experimenting with such a community, and there’s more to say later. But for now I’ll just say this: Coracle exists because Jesus is real and the world is broken, and we’re doing our best–with God’s help and with each other–to live a faithful response to these two realities that we can’t let go of: the world and Jesus. And as we keep a tight grip on Jesus, the center will hold.