On Not Knowing


At the present time, I have to have some medical tests. I’m not looking forward to them, or the results. When I get them, then I’ll discuss a way forward with my doctor. For now, I am living in a place of not-knowing, full of “what-if?”s and “how-will-we?”s. Like for those poor folk in the Caribbean and Florida waiting to see what devastation Hurricane Irma continues to wreak, the outcomes are all unknown. But I’m finding that being a contemplative is good training for this. I am used to living with unknowns and uncertainties.

“The cloud of unknowing” is the name that one anonymous mystic in the fourteenth century put to the experience of trying to get to know God. Prayer is full of our own ignorance. It has to be, else there would be no room for coming to know God, who is fundamentally unknowable.

Two small paragraphs in, and already we seem tied in knots of contradiction and even paradox. But that’s what living the Christian life with any dedication is like. The depths of our ignorance, when plumbed, can awaken in us a desire to know God more fully. Faith can only really begin to grow in a place empty of our own sense of certainty. It needs space to grow, its own plot or belly in which to gestate. The knowing of God spreads out its wings into that emptied space, and makes itself comfortable. It nests.

We can only make room for obedience when we self-empty and embrace humility, and even suffering, like Christ, who “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2: 6-7 partial ESV). We can then, beginning this process, say to God, “I do not know what is happening or what will happen, but I choose to trust you.”

All of our not-knowing comes down to the fact that we acknowledge that we are not in control of anything. Control is just another illusion in life, like success and power. The fact is that we do not know what is going to happen in our lives in the next five minutes. And when we first face that, it seems scary. But in actual fact, it is quite a freeing thing, as is getting rid of any falsehood.

We can then see, or decide to believe, that there is only one thing that is by any means certain, and that is the goodness of God. That’s it. His being, his eternity, his character, these are the foundations of any sure and certain hope we have. The same goes for all the wondering on why things are the way they are. This is the reason I spend my whole life attempting to make way for his truths and spend hours of my day rooted in stillness to get to know him better. Because right at the core of everything, whether I have bad results or good, it is the only knowing that matters.

© Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017 Picture from Pixabay

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