What are you certain about? When you really think about it, is there that much we can know for sure?
We know the sun will rise and set each day – that’s a sure thing. We know the seasons will come and go each year. We know the sky is full of stars. These are some things we can be certain about. And we feel better when we “stand on solid ground” or have some expertise, or can speak with authority about something.
And certainly, facts are facts. Some things are just empirically true, and we can’t deny those things.
But life is made up of so much more than the facts. Is not much of life a mystery? Life consists of an unknown future, a past interpreted by fallible memory or a fleeting present moment.
Our experience of reality is influenced by our world view. It is shaped by preconceptions or feelings. We all know the experience of having a conversation and realizing later, to our surprise, that the other participant took away an entirely different understanding. Sometimes our experience of the facts is more true than the facts themselves.
It seems to me like there is so much we can’t be certain about. The world is not black and white. God cannot be fully defined or understood. No one has all the answers or even most of the answers. When it comes to the truly important things in life – like love, relationships, faith or wisdom – there are so many things I think I know. But when it really comes down to it, how much of that do I know beyond a shadow of a doubt?
For example, I may think I know what to do to love my neighbor, but the truth is, it is hard to know how to love best. It takes a lot of practice and I’m still learning and still making mistakes. I’m not as certain as I thought I was. So perhaps the question here is more about how to live with the uncertainty which is so much a part of life.
Uncertainty can be a gift. Something that is certain is static and a static faith or spirituality is dead. I would rather have a growing faith than a static faith. Our beliefs grow and change through life and are shaped by our experiences of life and God and others. Those changes often begin with questions or confusion or uncertainty. Our uncertainty may be worrisome or even frightening, but questions, confusion, or uncertainty invite movement, exploration and growth.
Uncertainty invites us to explore a mystery. It opens us up to possibility. It helps us see a situation with new eyes.
Uncertainty spurs our creativity and requires us to be seekers. When we are uncertain, we are watching and listening for guidance or clues or something new.
Uncertainty is energetic and driving. It can help us become a new creation. That sounds like new life. That sounds like living.
Perhaps you are becoming a new creation. You are welcome to come on by sometime if you want to talk about it.
Catherine Tran is the Rector at Grace Church in Buena Vista. She also has a practice in spiritual direction and is the author of “Spiritual Discovery: A Method for Discernment in Small Groups and Congregations” (Rowman and Littlefield). Catherine may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.