Seeking the Solution
I’ve heard it said that the most powerful drive in humanity is hunger, followed by the sex drive. I suspect that the drive to resolve emotional and cognitive dissonance is pretty high up there as well. Who knows? It may even be more powerful than hunger.
We’re all born with original sin hanging around in our souls. We start out, not cognitively knowing but still somehow aware of, the fact that we are somehow not right. Theologians, based on Genesis 1, say that we are born in a state of emptiness and therefore loneliness at a deep level and a sense of shame and guilt. This leaves each of us with a deep sense that something is wrong. An enormous amount of energy is immediately directed towards fixing that sense. Whether that means getting rid of the feeling or dealing with the problem in some fashion depends on what we discover works through trial and error over our lives, but one way or another, we have to do something in order to make it go away. We don’t like feeling this.
So we are born with a drive to find a solution to this problem of feeling like something isn’t quite right, and that drive works its way into almost everything we do, I think. Many psychologists offer that we are drawn romantically towards those people who have traits similar to those that left us with emotional dissonance as children so that we can figure out a way to fix that dissonance that still lingers. Thus, who we date and potentially marry is often at least partially driven by a sense of what is wrong in our hearts and our attempt to fix it (I speak from experience). For some, the careers we choose are influenced by our attempts to deal with our internal issues. The genres of books and theater and movies, from distracting to horrifying to romantic are influenced by it. The defense mechanisms that we develop from tuning out the world through television to shopoholism to overworking to the inability to say no to a slightly defensive or angry take on the world are all ways for us to try to solve this dissonance or at least try to express it somehow. We are a people who are aware of sin and distortion in us, if not consciously, and are trying desperately to deal with it in whatever way we can.
And not one darn thing works. In the end, we can’t solve the problem, and we can’t really escape from it. Even when we, through gross willpower, deny it and shove it down, it leaks out of us in times of stress or through our attitudes or even our bodies. It doesn’t work.
No wonder we need a savior.
What we are ultimately unable to deal with, the Father has been setting up a solution for since the beginning of creation, Christ has already done the most critical work to make things possible, and the Spirit continues to work out the individual details in our hearts. And isn’t that the gospel?
But if this is the gospel, then part of our participation in the gospel is to accept what the Triune God has been and continues to work out in us. And that means that we must stop trying to enact solutions ourselves, or at least work to become aware of our attempts and then cooperate with God to find out if that’s what He actually wants us to do. Rather than trying to create a solution ourselves, which is ultimately doomed to fail, we must look to God and trust Him to bring about a solution in His way and in His time. Of course, the solution that He brings about will involve relationship, which means that we have a part in it. Thus, while it is His work, we aren’t left to idly sit and do nothing all the time. We have a part, if at the very least to ensure that we are working with Him rather than against Him or not at all.
Our drivenness to find solutions is a sign that something is wrong, but not that we must find the solutions. We already have one.