The Wilderness of Not Knowing

Not knowing is a scary place. If it could be mapped, it would be plotted right in the middle nowhere. It would include wilderness and a ghost town…complete with ghosts. I am telling you it is scary place so that when you arrive, you will not be as scared as you would be if you had not known. And you will most likely get there if you have not already driven through its environs.

When I was younger, I knew a lot more than I do now that I am older. I spoke with a certainty and a confidence that betrayed arrogance more than wisdom and conceit more than belief. But now? My hair is leaving it’s natural habitat, what remains is going the way of gray and I can feel the weight of being in my fortieth year. There are those who are older (and cynical?) who will decry my melodrama and say, “Wait till you’re…” But I am getting old. I can feel it. I can feel this more in my soul than in my bones, but my bones would agree. And as I have grown older, I have realized how little I know. And what is strange is how at ease I am with that fact.

I am OK with not knowing.

“How do you feel Matt?” “I don’t know.”

“What do you think about _________?” “I’m not sure.”

Previously, I would have been scared to say as much. But I am not so scared anymore. I am OK with not knowing. My faith is intact. I have not rejected the gospel. But there are some things I am just not sure about anymore. This is not the time for me to detail them all. And they are not the issue anyway. What is the issue is that “not knowing” is a scary place to be…until you feel free to admit it.

Some people never have had to struggle with this. I don’t even understand those people. They are so free of people’s opinion they have always felt free to be ignorant on a particular thorny question. They say, “Well, I don’t know.” Then they move on and do their thing. Not me. I have always felt the pressure to answer. Not knowing was never an option.

But now it is. And the reasons are simple. Once you realize you can question the conventional wisdom and this does not mean you are tempting the fate of heresy you feel a little more free. But what got me out of the car while in the wilderness of not knowing was realizing I am not God. You already knew this about me. But it took me a little bit longer. But God is the only one who never says, “I dunno.” This is freedom itself. We – even apart from our sin problem – are those who will find ourselves in the land of not knowing. This is really good. Knowing we were created to not know everything is reason enough to step out of the car, draw in a deep breath and look for a place to take a load off.

Maybe even the load of knowing all the answers.

3 thoughts on “The Wilderness of Not Knowing

  1. Gabe December 29, 2010 / 2:13 pm

    Learning those three words changed so much for me. I knew everything before I was saved. I knew the bible, God, you know, everything. He saves me and suddenly my idiocy has been clearly illuminated. I still have a tendency to be the answer guy, though. And this, more than anything else, is why I am resistant to going to seminary. I want to be the guy chasing Jesus, not the guy with the answer to every conceivable theological position.

  2. kingdomstrider December 29, 2010 / 2:43 pm

    The not knowing is something that's been growing in me over the last few years. Reading Richard Rohr's "Things Hidden" this summer helped a lot. It can be so easy to park the car out in the wilderness and pout. It's getting out of the car and breathing the air of that wilderness that brings freedom.Thanks for this, Matt!

  3. David Lester December 29, 2010 / 9:38 pm

    Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threatsToo noble to neglectDeceived me into thinkingI had something to protectGood and bad, I define these termsQuite clear, no doubt, somehow…

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