The Grace of Unknowing

Sometimes we’re threadbare and hanging on by a thread. The words that changed everything still echo in our mind. Things that were once certain seem to be crumbling to pieces.

In this culture we’re taught to hang on to certainty, and can’t we see it everywhere? The fifty-odd churches advertised in the Sunday newspaper, each claiming a unique monopoly on exact “truth.” The cutthroat vaccine vs anti-vaccine debates, the mommy wars, the back-and-forth about homosexuality and equal rights. The list goes on.

We find ourselves getting comfortable with one side or the other. Hang our hat on that peg and stay a while. The perspective seems right. It’s cozy here.

And then something terrible happens in our personal life and our neat little theology starts to unravel. Or maybe a new theory comes out that threatens our scientific position. Or maybe someone close to us is suddenly found to be on the “other” side.

The knee-jerk response?

Fear. A clamoring to hold on to what we thought, what we were so certain was certain. And in the midst of the fear and clamoring, someone is almost always liable to get hurt. Entire wars have been fought around these things.

We, as a culture, do not do well when faced with unknown. We like to know, but life is full of unknowing.

No wonder we’re all a mess. We all want so badly to be right. No one has been taught the grace of unknowing. Of holding steady even when it feels like all the foundations are shifting and there is no more center ground. We either get stuck holding dogmatically to the past, or we move forward, but with great bitterness and resentment.

And it’s not just religion, and science, and current events. It’s real life. It’s getting the phone call that upends our world. It’s coming home from the honeymoon and not knowing who we married. It’s sitting across from the doctor whose words are muffled by the palpable panic rising in our chest. It’s the month after month spent aching for the child who does not seem to come. It’s the disappointments. The unmet expectations. The unfulfilled desires.

It’s the unknown. The unknowable. Life’s full of it.

How do we live lives of grace even when everything is being challenged and questioned? When we’re tired and aching? When we realize the center has shifted (or maybe it is we who have shifted), but we were not quite ready to change perspective? When we come to the end of ourselves and the end of our answers? When the neat little box we built around God explodes in our face?

Maybe it starts by having compassion. Compassion for ourselves because there are things we don’t know, and compassion for the other, because haven’t we all been there? I know I have.

Wondering where the light at the end of the tunnel is. How this is going to work out. Feeling totally unglued and ungrounded.

And then a friend comes and sits in the dark with me. No pressure to move forward or backward or do or be anything other than just there. In the dark. In the unknowing. With my hat in my hands. Waiting for the dawning light to come.

“Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” Hosea 6:3

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