“Certainty is the place you stop when you’re tired of thinking.”
I loved this quote when I first stumbled across it. I guess I have always had a problem with people who are so firm on what they perceive as the correct worldview that it’s as if they think God has revealed all mysteries to them and them alone. Growing up, it was a church that was certain about who was saved and who was not. In college, it was professors certain of how the end times were going to work out. In a career in ministry, it has been leaders around me certain that their methods are the best.
On the television, it’s no different. News analysts and talk show hosts are certain that the Republican or the Democratic agenda holds the key to our country’s future. Entire shows are built around bringing together two people entrenched on opposing sides of a particular debate and watching them go head-to-head. The winner? It’s certainly not the one convincing the other that they are incorrect. Instead, it’s usually the wittiest one who emerges victorious, the one able to make the other person seem less together or less educated on their topic because the sarcasm from the other “certain” side presented their case better.
If it wasn’t for the Spirit of God convicting, wooing, and calling me throughout my entire life, I wouldn’t be a Christian. No way. I wouldn’t be able to make heads or tails of religion if I were a complete outsider looking in. To be honest, I’m not sure if I can make much of it even as an “insider.” With everyone so affirmed in their own position which is antithetical to the next guy/girl and their stance, there would be no way to find truth because we’ve all labeled our personal road as the “narrow” one.
As a pastor, I say “I don’t know” a lot more than I was told I should. How will things go down concerning end times? I don’t know. Where was God when this horrific thing happened? I really can’t say for certain. Does God really have a perfect will for my life and, if so, how can I find it? I’m not quite sure. The questions come one after the other yet I am increasingly comfortable saying, “I don’t have a great answer for you, because I just don’t know.”
Why? I have a sneaking suspicion that other people really don’t know either, and it’s a relief when they finally hear that it’s okay to not know. I don’t have the truth all figured out. I don’t have the ways and things of God hammered down. His ways are higher than my ways. His thoughts are higher than my thoughts. I am the created trying to make sense of the Creator. I am the natural making sense of the supernatural. By definition alone, there are things that I, as the ordinary, cannot understand about the extraordinary.
So I have to be okay with that. It’s humbling to not have it figured out. Yet, Biblically speaking, I can know one thing for sure–that humility is a good thing. I have to have faith if I can’t fill in the blanks on my own. Yet I can be certain that faith is also a good thing to possess. It seems, then, that the mystery I must embrace is good for me. I am finding that the uncertainty is actually where I’m supposed to live. Instead of frantically striving to understand all things and then declare my supremacy on a specific topic, it seems God is found in the tension of simply shrugging and saying, “I don’t know.”
And of that, I’m absolutely certain…
Matt Conner is a former pastor and church planter turned writer and editor. He’s the founder of Analogue Media and lives in Indianapolis.