IVP - Strangely Dim - Embrace the Tension

June 13, 2006

Embrace the Tension

So we had this Likewise Gathering over the weekend. Nineteen guests of InterVarsity Press came in to discuss the faith + publishing needs of people in their twenties and early thirties. Among the things I learned: "young adults," in the ears of most people, means "adolescents." I wonder what "old adults" means, but I fear that it would mean me.

But the word that kept coming up was tension. The tension of enjoying your youth but being taken seriously as an adult, the tension of living in a consumer culture while knowing that children are being victimized around the world by consumer practices, the tension of making ethical decisions in real time, the tension of navigating adulthood when the primary adults in your life checked out years previous, the tension of living up to the life handed you as a child of promise, the tension of bearing someone else's legacy as your lineage. My nails are getting shorter by the minute.

Add to that the tension of a faith rooted and established in paradox: Jesus the fully human and fully divine, one God in three Persons, the now and the not yet, and on and on and on. The rallying cry of the weekend seemed to be the concept statement of Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz: faith, like life, doesn't resolve.

As a publisher we face our own tensions. Do we publish books for the mind or the heart? Do we publish to social-justice activists or pop culture gluttons? Are we a ministry or a business? And on and on and on.

In a culture characterized by tension, the misery index is going to be pretty high, but it's only aggravated by the fact that we've been, in the words of Sam Phillips, "raised on promises." I certainly expected to be president of the United States by now, but instead I can't decide which pile of work I need to do first, which denomination I should invest my energy in, and on and on and on.

So perhaps the job of a publisher is to find and produce books that train people to tolerate tension--and beyond that, perhaps, to even embrace the tension. If God, after all, is paradoxical, then even our happy ending will have a fair bit of tension built into it.

The logo for Likewise displays some tension; a man leads a donkey, with a taut rope between them. An earlier draft, believe it or not, was even more tense: the donkey's legs were locked tight. Our designer hinted at motion by bending the donkey's leg. Clever, huh?

I can't imagine that selling tension is an easy task; good thing I'm in editorial.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at June 13, 2006 2:17 PM Bookmark and Share

Comments

Sorry I missed the weekend, Dave. Your comments about young adults sound right on target: As a culture we're hard at work eliminating childhood. We want children to be consumers at ever earlier ages, and we want adolescents to be "available" in other senses at increasingly early ages. That's why we invented the word "tweens".

Comment by: Paul Grant at June 13, 2006 3:56 PM

Great post!!!

Comment by: Margaret at June 13, 2006 6:29 PM

You expected to be president by now? Isn't there an lower age requirement--35. But you will just be reaching 35 this month! (Oops, did I let the cat out of the proverbial bag?)

Comment by: Drew Blankman at June 15, 2006 11:22 AM

Well, you're not outing me, since I regularly pout about being old. But actually, I turned 35 last June; this year is 36. I'm well into my midlife crisis, as anyone who knows me knows well.

Ugh. I'd better check my 401ks.

Comment by: dave at June 15, 2006 12:02 PM

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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