I believe in learning to say, “I don’t know.”
For the longest time, I thought it was my task in life to know everything already, not to have to learn. I resisted asking for help, or admitting to ignorance. I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was nineteen because I hated the experience of not already knowing how to drive, and so I refused to learn.
As time has passed, I have truly lived the cliché that the older I get the more I realize I don’t know. It started with preparing for ministry and has expanded from there.
I don’t know why some people’s lives are so blessed while others’ are such a struggle. I don’t know why people fall in love with the people they do. I don’t know why making progress toward peace and justice is at times such an impossible task. I don’t know if there is any meaning or pattern beyond the daily work of our lives. I don’t know why what begins as love so often becomes a trainwreck. I don’t know why we don’t stop hurting ourselves and each other.
All this not knowing is deeply uncomfortable for me. I sometimes wish I could go back to pretending the world made sense, to imagining that I could understand why things are the way they are. I still struggle with thinking that not knowing means I have failed.
But I am also discovering the gifts of not knowing, the freedom that comes with not having to have all the answers. I look at the world with new eyes—with curiosity and wonder, with the expectation of being surprised. By letting go of my need to understand love, I have found love itself. By admitting that I don’t know why things happen the way they do, I am finding that I am more present to my own life and the lives of others.
I used to throw around the word “mystery” whenever I had a gap I needed to fill. I always viewed it as temporary—“sure it’s a mystery now, but someday I will understand.” More and more, mystery is for me both the deepest truth and the most powerful gift. More and more I am grateful for what I do not know and all that is possible in the not knowing.
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