Unicorns, Balance, & Other Mysterious Things
For over 2,000 years, unicorns have traveled across the globe, spanning the lengths of oceans, and appearing on every continent. Scholars have compared their unique qualities and students have searched for their meaning. Even the religious have noted their "divine" attributes.
You may wonder, “Daly, have you gone crazy?”
And to that question, I would respond: “Have you ever seen a piece of artwork containing a unicorn? Have you ever heard a story or seen a movie about a unicorn? Did you ever read the original King James translation of the Bible (which mentioned a unicorn)? What about when Tertullian suggested that Jesus should be called the ‘Son of Unicorns’?”
You may think I’ve lost my mind. Perhaps I have. Perhaps hindsight is the clearest form of sight we can ever experience, so let me explain what I see as the history of the mysterious Unicorn:
The thing is, unicorns have surpassed the lifespan of many literal animals that are now extinct, simply because they began as a vague description of something real, but without proper context, grew into an enduring, mysterious species: “The Imagined”. There, in our imagination, unicorns have traveled the globe, attended church, and become the subject of stories and artwork - from Medieval tapestries to Saturday morning cartoons.
From the minds of people like Aristotle, Julius Caesar, and King James, unicorns have survived by arising from what may have been an original description of an actual exotic animal in India. But, without literal, visual proof, and only a secondhand description, imagination had to fill in the gaps in our understanding. Religion, Science, and Politics have tried to sort out the mess. Over time, we have learned that historical imaginations from all of these entities may have played a larger role than what we would like to admit - and definitely created a creature that was believed in, even though it wasn't even something that could be definitely attained.
Sometimes, I think that the story of the Unicorn is similar to the story of many other mysterious, intangible things – the things we cannot literally hold in our hands or see firsthand. We simply know of it through vague notions and characteristics observed by people who claim to have seen it somewhere or maybe by those who believed they had attained it. Therefore, it exists as a description of something that cannot be fully grasped but must be discerned. There are many things that we know must be real, but we are not sure how to find it or categorize it. It exists as a seemingly ethereal thing, like a vapor – we know it is there, but how do we lay hold of it. For me, Balance is one of this mysterious things.
What exactly is balance? Can we hold it, see it, describe it, or propose a fail-proof method of grasping it (like the Medieval scholars tried to assert about how one can catch a unicorn)? Or, is it like a lot of intangible things in this world: something that must be found based on what it is not?
In the absence of literally seeing a unicorn in real life, perhaps people of the past would have found a more direct path to discovering the true identity and function of the animal described originally if they would have paid more attention to what a unicorn wasn’t. It wasn’t an elephant, or a wolf, or a typical horse. By delineating what it wasn’t, they may have sorted out that a rhino is a great candidate!
Perhaps that is what Balance is. Perhaps, because the experience of Life is uniquely expressed in each of us, we cannot find someone outside of our own being that can give us a foolproof picture of what Balance looks life in our own lives. Maybe that’s why Solomon gives Believers an idea of what Balance isn’t in Ecclesiastes 7:18: “It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes”. The key to figuring out whether we are functioning as people who fear the Lord within the complexity of our individual lives is to actively and repeatedly grasp that functioning in extremities will keep us from living within proper, God-fearing balance.
Some extremities are obvious. Like realizing that a rat would not be a viable candidate to fit the original description of a unicorn, there are things that the Bible declares as obvious markers of an imbalanced Christian Life. However, there are other things that are not definitive, which must be worked out with wisdom, inner integrity, experience, and time. For me, these lesser-defined areas present themselves with characteristics that have become my version of an inner pendulum; to the extent that I see these characteristics present in my heart, mind, and actions, the more I discern that I am sinking into an "extremity", slipping out of the realm of a balanced, God-fearing life. These characteristics can show up in my life in almost every area: moods, attitudes, motivations, blatant sins, knee-jerk reactions, thoughts, and shifting habits. Some of these areas are clearly observable, but most of these areas are internal realms within my heart and mind. It requires that I am fiercely honest with myself, and that I continually invite the Holy Spirit to “search me and know me and see if there is any anxious way” in my life. It also helps to have those people in my life who I trust to love me well, to help me work through the unique way I walk either within the realm of Balance or Extremes.
So, that’s why we are working through this new theme of “Balance”. Not necessarily attaining it, but simply working out how we recognize the mysterious thing called “Balance” in our lives, as we discover some ways that we all wander into Extremes. Some of the specifics may vary from each of our individual lives, but the goal is the same: working out how to live well for our good and for God’s glory.
Hope you’ll join us!