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Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Our month of *January* is named after the Roman god, Janus. Janus was the keeper of gates, doors, doorways, and beginnings and endings. He was often worshiped at starting events such as the harvest, planting, marriages, births; and transitional life events such as when a boy was now recognized as a man. A common myth told of Janus causing a hot spring to erupt, thereby foiling an attack against Rome.

Janus is shown as having two faces, one looking forward and one looking backwards. I can't think of a better picture for what we call *ambivalence.* defines ambivalence thus: uncertainty or fluctuation, esp. when caused by inability to make a choice or by a simultaneous desire to say or do two opposite or conflicting things. Ambivalence comes from the Latin *ambi* meaning *both*, and *valentia* meaning *strength.*

I think ambivalence is a part of being human in a fallen world, and probably most decisions in life incorporate some degree of ambivalence. Even something as normal as eating breakfast can reflect uncertainty: should I eat the egg or the waffle? (or both?) Or just drink orange juice, or go without... I'm hungry, but I want to lose five pounds by summer...

But have you ever been gripped by a strong ambivalence? Something that is a constant fight within you, that doesn't stop? I imagine that all of us have at least one axis somewhere within our psyche that could make us vulnerable to a frozen ambivalence. What college shall I go to? Should I keep this job, or take that one? Should I marry her?

Should I? Can I? May I?

How horrible this is. I've often wondered if this is why people are so drawn to rules in all areas of life, so that these nagging doubts won't come to visit.

Ambivalence comes in different flavors: intellectual, emotional, moral; and many gradations in between. James 1:8 says *A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.* (AKJV) Yes, this ambivalence, no matter the root, is destabilizing.

It's important to know, really know, your values and goals in life so that when you are faced with these choices, you have a better sense of how to decide. Sometimes, though, life throws you a curve ball, and it's hard to know what to do or how to handle a problem. And then, what?

You will not always know the answer. Or maybe, you know the answer, but can't quite make the final step. Sometimes you hang on: you're too drawn even though you know you should move on.

Immobile, unable to go forward, unable to turn back. Just like Janus.

The solution? First, trust. Trust that God will redeem things, somehow, some way. Then, do the right thing, or the best thing within your power to know.

Being human in this fallen world is hard. I think of the film March of the Penguins, with the Antarctic penguins huddled in a circle through a windstorm with -60 degree temperatures and a four month night. I wonder if the angels look at us humans in this world like this: we don't even know how bad it is. We are battered by ambivalence, despite all of our effort to keep it at bay.

I believe though that God values our good choices, and He will make it right, if not in this world, then in the world to come. Sometimes, that is the best that can be said for a bad situation.

What think you, my friends?

1 comment:

Anne Lang Bundy said...

I was deeply moved by March of the Penguins. I love the application you've made. We really don't know how bad it is.

And we really don't know how good it is. We don't see how good the Lord is making things right now. We wait for eternity, but we also need vision to be able to see the now.