Knowing, and Not Knowing
|The extent to which I never imagined, or possibly anticipated, the life I am currently living boggles my mind. And the brain strain of trying to comprehend the variables and (lack of?) choices sometimes overloads. Conflicting reports seem to make no sense. |
We rely on our reasoning, our abilities to sort through information, weigh the sources, and choose rational responses. But at times like these (is there such a thing as a time like this, in any of our memories?), our previous skills fail us. And we flail about. Or at least I sometimes do.
So, when I hear Paul talk about knowing and not knowing, as he contemplates what is next for him, I slow down and notice. “You know” he says repeatedly. Talking about their shared past experiences. How they lived together and made sense of that time.
“You know how I lived among you…. You know I held back nothing that would be helpful…. You know I have testified….” Acts 20: 18, 20, 21 (CEB)
Perhaps it is helpful to look back and recall together what we know. How we lived together, sharing food in each other’s homes. How we sang together. Hugs and passing communion cups. The generosity with which we hosted each other. The words we spoke, talking together. Whispering prayers into trusted ears, and raucous loud laughter.
Because now we are in the time of unknowing. The future is uncertain. It always was, but seems more so now. The plans we made, the trips we thought we’d take, the people we would see… all undone. So, what does lie ahead? Paul says,
“Now, compelled by the Spirit, I’m going to Jerusalem. I don’t know what will happen to me there.” Acts 20:22 (CEB)
Somehow, Paul’s unknowing is comforting to me. Paul, who is so confident of what he knows, also faces an unknown future. I, too, have been compelled by the Spirit to make certain choices, knowing only that it would be difficult. How hard, I had no idea. I can only imagine how different your life looks than what you expected. Your difficulties and suffering.
Then Paul returns to what he knows. That troubles await him, wherever he goes. That he will not see these friends again.
After he said these things, he knelt down with all of them to pray. They cried uncontrollably as everyone embraced and kissed Paul. They were especially grieved by his statement that they would never see him again. Then they accompanied him to the ship. Acts 20:36-38 (CEB)
Such depth of emotion! Love and friendship that we might not often imagine for Paul. There are times that each of us must grieve the future that will not happen. The people we will not see again. The confusing present of unknowing. Crying, even uncontrollably, is appropriate and needed. How will we go forward?
Paul knew his mission. There was nothing more important to him than completing the ministry of good news with which he was entrusted. The good news of God’s grace. And I find that when I seem crushed by the weight of the unknown, it is helpful to return to what I know. The mission I have been given. The people that have been entrusted to me.
And then to pray. Which sometimes I feel that I barely know how to do. And ask others to pray with me, and for me. That we will know how to move ahead in these uncertain times. Which ships to board, and which to let sail. How to accompany each other and release each other to the journeys we must take alone.
“Now I entrust you to God and the message of his grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all whom God has made holy.” Acts 20:32 (CEB)
May you experience God’s grace. Facing the unknown, may you be strengthened and built up. And may we know that we have an inheritance together, as only God can make us holy.
|Service 5/24: Not When, but Where|
Order of Service 5/24