I don’t know. This is a phrase I detest, if I am honest. I like knowing things. I value information. I appreciate knowing which direction I am headed.
This is unfortunate for many reasons. Mainly, because I am not omniscient. Also, because knowing all the things does nothing but create the illusion that I am in control. Which I am not. No self, you are not!
It’s not that I literally want to know all the things.* I am fine to live blissfully ignorant as to how a car engine works. Likewise, I have no desire to comprehend quantum physics. I do enjoy learning and reading and talking over ideas though. And I have above average knowledge on coffee and film trivia.
What I really want though is to know what I am doing with my life. So many structures in life allow us to ignore that question (i.e. school). There is always a next step. After school, work. After work, retirement. After dating, marriage. After marriage, kids. After kids, grandkids. This keeps going until we are hit with the terrifying unknown. Sometimes our natural structures in life lead there, such as in retirement. However, there are times in life when we are surrounded by questions unexpectedly. Layoffs. Divorce. Infertility. Sickness. And that terrifying answer to all the questions smack you in the face: I don’t know.
I am in a season full of questions, by my choice. And I actually have a lot of freedom in these decisions. That terrifies me. I can concoct a variety of options of next steps for myself. They are all good options. Some for differing reasons. Which leads to the next question…
What role does God play in this mess of mine?
In my life I have seen God work in two ways. First, there are the times when he gives specific and very clear direction. Go there. Do this. Talk to this person. As a compliant child, obedience comes easily for me. I may complain, but I will obey. Second, and the more jarring option for me, is when God gives me the freedom to choose. What do you want to do? The fear of “getting it wrong” paralyzes me. Can I really choose? Are you sure? How about you just tell me what to do?
I am so used to a black and white world, where every situation has one right way to respond and one wrong way. The older I get, the more I see how complex our world is. It’s not that there is an absence of right or wrong. Rather, it is challenging to see what is actually right, and being right does not excuse you from pain and suffering. There are times when multiple options can be “right.” Or at least, they’re not absolutely wrong. Take living in California versus living in Texas. Those could be right or wrong decisions based on the context.
As I see the complexity and tension, I have a choice. I can try to oversimplify my world and ignore the complexity (thus overlooking the pain and suffering in this world). I can respond by trying to control every aspect of my life in order to protect myself from the chaos. But there is a third way. I can take the complexity and questions to the Lord, take my fear and pride, and relax into his hands, with the growing trust that he holds all the things.
Recently I was asked to identify my story. This is what came to mind:
The girl who thinks she has all the answers learns she doesn’t…and that’s ok.
Well at least, I’m learning to be ok.
*Yes, this is a reference to “Clean all the things” from the hilarious website Hyperbole and a Half.