Certainty and Uncertainty

You know what I love? Consistency. Predictability. A plan. In Myers Briggs terms, my J is strong.

You know what drives me bananas? The unknown. Waiting and seeing. Trusting God when I haven’t the faintest idea of what’s going to happen next.

Like I mentioned last month, I’m in a liminal space. This month it feels more real and beyond just my changed relationship status. I’m sitting with questions of what’s next — I finish my three-year spiritual direction training in May, I’m adjusting my identity to being single, and entering the 30-something age bracket has come with its own set of expectations I hadn’t realized (like buying nice furniture and thinking about retirement). I can’t address this with a tactical plan right now…and have a sinking suspicion that not a lot actually needs to be addressed. But the fear of not knowing the future pulls me into an anxiety vortex that is hard to get out of once inside.

I’m not alone in this experience. I’ve heard the same feelings of uncertainty from many of my thirty-something peers living in the Bay Area about a variety of things: we can’t own a home here, do we move elsewhere, if we stay here where do we fit future babies in our tiny apartments, and how do we loving tell our parents we don’t have room for our grandparents’ furniture in said tiny apartments?

When I shared about my uncertainty, my friend Erin read this scripture to me over Skype and we both laughed at how frustrating it was: “Make a plan, but it will come to nothing. Give your plan, but it will not be done. For God is with us.” (Isaiah 8:10). God can be so annoying sometimes — trying to massage out my rigidity by turning my plans on their heads. I’ve learned by now to not run ahead of myself. But it doesn’t save me from sleepless nights where my anxiety makes me kick my bed covers like they’re attackers.

I have no magic solution, only an invitation to patience and presence:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” — Rilke

I tend to forget that part of living the questions is simply living: going to therapy, exercising, writing, working, art-making, mentoring, giving and receiving spiritual direction, goofing off with friends, balancing a budget/saving/giving, dating, reading, cooking, and prayer at the center of it all. It will build and weave into what the future looks like and who I am in that future space as well. I have an abundance of examples from the last 30 years to support this. And anxiety can give me temporary amnesia to the provision that has come in the past.

Let’s be honest, I’m still in planner mode. I have a detailed vision statement for myself that I revise in a Google doc. It helps me remember the person I have become and am becoming. It steadies me when I see what God has done within me — that it’s all been more rich and vibrant than my own previous plans.

In the invitation to simply live, there’s a deeper call to embrace grace. That’s the real work I sense God doing in this season within me. For me to sit with the reality that I don’t have to perform, please, or perfectly execute on anything, let alone my future. That perhaps I’ve been holding an inaccurate image of God as the parent I have to earn affection from. So I pray with the reality that I already have God’s attention, love, and participation. Since, at the end of the day, it’s not the certainty I want, but God.

Image: flickr/tom_hall_nz CC BY 2.0

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