January 13th. That’s the date that came up on the screen as I signed electronic paperwork to make an offer on my first house. If everything works out, that big old commitment on that cute little street will be mine on January 13th. When that date came up on that screen my heart dropped into my feet. A month and a half. Am I ready to do this in a month and a half?
Uncertainty. How can such a common emotion still shake me to my core every single time? How have humans not learned how to stop the questions? Those diabolical questions that are part of a terrible, painful interrogation of ourselves. How do I know that I am making the right decision? Is this real? Am I worthy of this? Is this what I am meant for?
I spend a lot of time trying to convince myself that if I trust enough, in myself, in others, in my situation, in God, then the weight of that uncertainty and those interrogational questions will lift. But time goes on, and uncertainty is still what life looks like. Part of being human is that we don’t get to have all the answers, and that is always going to mean times of uncertainty and questioning.
God doesn’t lay out His plan for us clearly with instructions from beginning to end and good feelings along the way; He lays it out for us like a game of clue. We get a handful of cards that are our own. We see them clearly; we can share them with others when asked. They give us a start and a misplaced, confident, feeling that if we follow a thoughtfully executed strategy then the whole thing will be just as clear as the cards in front of us; everything will happen just as we plan.
But we forget that we aren’t actually in charge. The game isn’t you vs. the computer; it’s you, the cards you were dealt, and the decisions you make vs. other very real people with cards they were dealt and a plan of their own. People who are going to derail, distract, and slow you down because their plan in the same as yours. Answer the questions, get to the middle, win the game.
Living in this world parallel to other humans is what brings us life and purpose, but it’s also what brings us control issues. We can only control our actions and thoughts, and that is where the type A parts of us start to spaz. Dealing with people means dealing with chaos. People give us answers we don’t like, and block the entrance to the study, and do everything they can to get to the middle first.
Hopefully in your real life you don’t have to deal with so much competition. I think more often in real life this looks more like unintentional misdirection, not malicious pushing off the side of the path. If you ask every person you love for advice every single one is going to say something different. Each individual gives you another path you could walk down, and if you weren’t lost and confused enough already, all of the sudden the paths are multiplying in front of your eyes. No one truly knows what is right for you, because you don’t always even know what’s right for you. It’s strange to have someone give something so lovingly that just makes you even more crazy and confused than you were before.
This is when I begin to try to convince myself of my trust. I trust my people and their advice. Even if it does make me crazy, there is truth mixed into one of those paths somewhere. I try to convince myself that my situation isn’t that bad; I am strong; God’s looking out for me. Trying to convince myself never works.
Another of our control issues exists because of our feeling of entitlement to knowledge. We see the backs of those cards in our opponent’s hands and think that we are entitled to know what they are all at once. We think that we should be given a smooth ride to the ultimate answer to our journey in that manila confidential folder.
We don’t get all of God’s answers without working for them. You don’t get a full hand dealt to you so that you immediately know the who, what, and where. That’s frickin’ ridiculous! That’s not how clue works! And what kind of pride would we have if it did? Minus the struggle, the joy of success is non-existent.
We need these painful, annoying, frustrating interactions to figure out what the answer isn’t. We need people to derail us, to send us in the wrong direction, and give us answers that we don’t want to hear, to multiply our paths, so that those cards in the middle actually mean something. We need to travel around learning what is wrong, so that we can figure out what’s right, and to trust that no matter how long it takes us and no matter how bad we suck at guessing, eventually we will only have three blank spaces left on our card. We need to trust that when this happens we will have an answer, and remember that sometimes even when we think we know, we could still be wrong. We are still human. We still interpret the things we are being told, and we are bound to interpret wrong sometimes. We still try to guess, and take bad short cuts, and we fail.
You can stall as much as you’d like. You can ask and double ask all the players at your table and check your cards over and over, but eventually you’ll have to guess who done it and know that you did everything in your power to get as close to the right answer as you could. Eventually you have to let go. You have to pick a path and jump into the darkness with hope in your heart that you haven’t made the worst ever mistake. Eventually January 13th will come, and I will have to make that jump.
We can do all the research and get as many answers as possible before we pick that path, but sometimes that doesn’t clear the fog. Sometimes you need to take the leap, trust yourself and God as much as you can, and fill in the rest with bravery. God waits on the heels of uncertainty, and even if you’re wrong, you’ll be a little bit closer to being right.