wytsma

the grand paradox: an interview with ken wytsma

Ken Wytsma is the founder of The Justice Conference, a pastor, and the president of Kilns College in Bend, Oregon.  Recently I had the chance to talk with him about his latest book, The Grand Parodox: The Messiness of Life, the Mystery of God, and the Necessity of Faith.

ST:  Why  did you decide to write The Grand Paradox?
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KW: The Grand Paradox was an attempt to address the tension we feel in life when we realize life is messy (messier than we think it should be) and God is mysterious (less clear and forthright than we think he should be). That tension is the life of faith—the walk where we choose to obey and follow despite lack of clarity, presence of suffering or experience of doubt and dark nights.   I loved the exercise of tackling most of the deep questions we wrestle with regarding Christian faith and arriving with a God-centered and joy filled answer: that faith, hope and love are possible even in the mess and in the mystery.
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ST:  What does your writing process look like?
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KW: I’m a bit unique in my writing process, I think. I love working in teams and I’m a verbal processor by nature. The Grand Paradox was mostly mapped out, outlined, and pieced in as I was able to wrestle through the ideas with a community of friends: Ben Larson, Rick Gerhardt, Emily Hill, Tabitha Sikitch and many more. The content for this book, unlike my first, was derived from my own faith journey and, therefore, flowed out of my life experience in a rather fluid and unique manner.
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ST:  In your book, you explore several different paradoxes.  Which one has been the most problematic for you — and why?
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KW: There are a lot of paradoxes in scripture: die to live, give to receive, give your life away to find it, the weak shall be strong and the humble will be exalted. For me, I think the self-protective urge is pretty strong. Trusting that if I give my life away—stop looking out for myself and serve others with all my strength and energy—that somehow that will turn out for the good. No matter how many times God proves himself, each time I’m confronted with the choice of the easy road or the hard road, I struggle all over again to believe that taking the hard road is the right choice. Comfort, consumerism and individualism die hard in most Americans—pastors and authors no exception!
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ST: What inspires you to keep going in times of doubt?

KW:  I think the most helpful thing for me with regard to faith and doubt was to realize they weren’t pitted against each other. They are not like a teeter-totter where one goes down if the other goes up. Rather, faith operates from a position of doubt, uncertainty and lack of clarity. In the midst of not being able to see, I choose to walk forward by faith. In the midst of doubt, I choose faith. Faith, many times, needs doubt like fire needs oxygen. When choosing God’s ways are hard, yet I still choose them, I come to know my faith is real.
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ST: What do you hope readers take away from the book?
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KW: I really believe so much more is possible in our relationship with God than people realize. My hope has been that the book clears away clutter, confusion and catalyzes hope and joy as men and women pursue God. It sounds cliche, but this book addresses most every question about our relationship with God that most men and women are wrestling with or asking. If I could give away a free copy to everyone I know, I would!
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ST:  What writers/books have been helpful to you as you’ve navigated these paradoxes?
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KW: Many voices have contributed both to my understanding of and ability to walk by faith. C.S. Lewis, the Danish Philosopher Kierkegaard (a story I recount in The Grand Paradox), Henri Nouwen, Dallas Willard (especially his book Hearing God), Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Mother Theresa–her honest doubt and life of faith are an incredible example of how doubts and faithful obedience can coexist.
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ST:  You and your wife have four girls.  If you could send them into adulthood with one piece of advice, what would it be?
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KW:  On several occasions I’ve asked the girls if they know that the most important thing at the core of their dad is that I trust God and seek to be in the right place at the right time on a daily basis (in God’s will). It’s more important to me that they know my heart, core value and that I have a relationship with God than that they see me engaged in behaviors. Going to church, praying, reading my bible etc. are all things that I believe are good for my daughters, but even if they never saw those parts of me, them knowing my heart for God reigns supreme is what I’d want them to take into adulthood. If they see that, my life is a testimony and the best advice (or example) they could take into adulthood.

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Click here to buy your copy of Ken’s book!

Thanks for sharing!

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