For me, faith was always about certainty. Certainty that the world worked a certain way. Certainty that God would always come through for you (if you prayed hard enough, worked hard enough, didn’t sin, fasted if the situation warranted it, and were generally the good girl). If you were a good evangelical, you would reach other people for Christ, and this often came through a formulaic approach based on the godlessness and hopelessness of all humankind, and the goodness and all-powerfulness of God.
Cool. Except for the fact that I prayed hard enough, worked hard enough, behaved well enough, fasted if the situation warranted it and was generally a good girl. A really good girl. If you knew my story, you’d probably know that I’ve had more things go wrong in my life than many. I firmly believe that there should be a cosmic quota for heartache and misfortune, and I’ve passed it. Waaayyy passed it. So why am I the happiest I’ve ever been?
I think its because I’ve shifted from certainty to uncertainty. And it’s beautiful. Do I know all about God? Nope. Not even close. Am I always seeking to understand God, and connect with the divine? Yep. Do I seek to live out my followership of Christ in the truest, most compassionate, most dedicated way I can? Yep. Does this bring me certainty about the world? Heck no.
Am I okay with that? Absolutely.
You see certainty, for me, brought about a deep sense of unease. If I was so certain that my doctrines were correct, and that everyone else was wrong and needed to convert to the movement I was in in order to be right, then I needed to wrestle with what I saw around me. My perfect God was missing a lot. He was not intervening in a lot of situations despite the endless prayers and supplications of His devout followers. He was turning a blind eye to abuse, a lot. He was making life really hard for the people who followed Him. If I was so certain that this version of God was the right version of God, and this version of philosophy and spirituality was the right version of it, then I had to earnestly want all my friends and family to convert to this extremely difficult way of being in the world.
I…didn’t. Couldn’t. And a new way of interacting with God began.
Let’s be fair: it began with a bit of a shitshow. I catapulted past that cosmic quota on hardship (that doesn’t exist). And the final straw came when my marriage transitioned. I say transitioned because it became a friendship that just works. To say it ended would elude to me losing my best friend and confidante. I didn’t. He’s gay though, and that is a bit of a pivot. So we separated.
In that moment, the vows that I had relied upon were broken. I stared in the face of potential abandonment once again, and guess what: it didn’t happen. He stuck by me the best way two separated people could. We share a house, and co-parenting duties. Our relationship has changed, but he did not run for the hills. My friends gathered around me, and I realised for the first time in my life that I didn’t want friends who rejected him or whose interactions with me were based on conditional love or the perception of me being weak and hurt. Because although he was my ex-husband, he wasn’t the man who wronged me. He loved me enough to give me a chance to find love again while I was young. He loved me enough to plunge us both into uncertainty, knowing that it would force us both to live authentically.
Yes, he needed to live authentically for obvious reasons. But he knew something about me too: I’d been making myself smaller in order to stay in his shadow, like a good, submitted, complementarian wife. He wasn’t going to let me do it for the rest of my life. So here we are: two single people parenting two presidents-schoolers, and about to take on the world of dating and its uncertain as heck.
In that moment, when we first separated, I went “huh. Can’t control a bloody thing, can you? Best just roll with it.”
Then Covid19 hit. And I thought “huh. Can’t control a bloody thing, can you? Best just roll with it.”
And then we moved to a whole new neighbourhood, in a whole new city, and we aren’t giving out our address for the first time in our lives. We waited until after the Melbourne lockdown was over to make the move, knowing making friends in Covid19 is difficult, but then the second lockdown started 48 hours before we arrived. And I thought, you guessed it, “Huh. Can’t control a bloody thing, can you? Best just roll with it.”
I mean I could have tried to control everything, to line it up with my “certain”, “non-negotiable” or “tried and true” ideas about the world. But that would have been fruitless, wouldn’t it. It would have taken up a crazy amount of energy, reduced me to frustration, and perhaps given me another walk with the black dog.
Here’s the problem I see with seeking certainty: it’s very hard to distinguish between certainty and control. In fact, sometimes when we say “certainty” what we mean is “control – fitting everything into a box I can understand and compartmentalise, keeping people and ideas where I want them so I can feel safe.” And control, frankly, is a myth. You can’t wrap the world up in a neat little bow, claiming you understand all of its in’s and out’s, its workings, timings and cosmic rhythms.
You can’t make people do what you want them to do and have that relationship be one in which both parties are healthy. For one person to have control over anothers actions takes away from the personhood of the second party. It costs part of their individuality, and agency over their choices in order for them to fall in line with what the person-in-control wants them to be.
And it’s a lot of work to maintain that inauthenticity, or that control. It breeds distrust, dissatisfaction, and all the disses.
So I’m embracing uncertainty. I know I do not understand God and the universe. It makes seeking those answers fun and fascinating. I know I can’t control anything, so I connect with my own integrity and what I deeply feel to be true in any given moment and do the best I can. I embrace the idea that I may be wrong, and that’s okay. When I’m faced with curveballs, I’m learning to go “Okay. Can I control this? No. So how do I respond best? How do I act in this moment that allows me to still be in my integrity, in my boundaries, and in line with what I feel to be my purpose?”
I like it. I like it better than certainty. A God I don’t understand is so much easier to seek after than one I think I’ve got locked down. A person I can’t control is so much more freeing to be around because they can be their authentic selves and I can be my authentic self. The energy once spent on good behaviour and fitting in is so much better spent elsewhere, don’t you think?
Anyway, that’s my thoughts for today. They may be influenced a little bit by Keith Kristich’s session on the podcast…but I have to wait until next week to post that. Stay tuned.
I’m currently listening to the sound of children playing, looking out over a city skyline on a sunny winters day. All is not how I thought it would be. But its pretty darn great. And I am happy. And this is a moment worth marking.
I hope you are well in this crazy time.