Things That Keep Me Up at Night: Uncertainty

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

(This post is part 2 of my 5 part series on things that keep me up at night. You can read the other posts in the series here.)

There are a few things that keep me up into the wee hours of the night, and one of those things is my uncertainty.

The Christian culture I grew up in during the early 2000's was all about being certain. There were "proofs" for every single tenant of Christianity, and it was imperative that I, a teenager, could explain the evidence for my faith in depth. The worldview I grew up in maintained that the Bible was infallible and the only reliable source. Science was viewed with suspicion and even straight-out animosity. Everyone who wasn't a believer was dogmatic and immoral. And if you couldn't argue your beliefs with the "enemy," then you were part of the problem.

One day, I came across an article by an apologist that argued that the Bible was scientifically accurate. He reasoned that Jesus' proclamation of the coming kingdom in Luke 17:34-35 demonstrated that the Bible maintained a Copernican view of the world. That someone could be asleep in bed at night and another could be grinding grain during the day proved that the Bible portrays a round earth (?).

I remember reading this argument, plus many others, with great wariness. It seemed like this was reading way more into the text than the Gospel writers intended us to. There was no way that the biblical writers could have ascribed to modern scientific views, and I frankly didn't think that their ancient views of a flat earth really even mattered. I started to doubt, and this uncertainty caused me to deconstruct many of the ideas that I had been taught about the relationship between the Bible and science.

Since then, I've deconstructed many beliefs I've previously held. I've torn them apart and put them back together with the new truth I've discovered. It's quite liberating, actually.

Yet, there are some nights when I lie in bed awake at night, worried that I've either gone too far or not far enough.

I worry about Jesus' call to nonviolent resistance and what that looks like practically. Is it even practical at all? Is it okay if it's not? Has Jesus called me to be "successful" or "faithful?" And if my life were ever threatened, would I stick with my convictions to radically love my enemy?

I worry about human sexuality and the complex nature of identity. I worry about how divided the Church at large is, and how she typically sides on either legalism or license. And what if I'm on the wrong "side?" I wish I didn't even have to pick a side.

I worry about whether I will immediately be with Jesus when I die or whether I'll remain "asleep," waiting for the final resurrection and redemption of all things. The thought of even being without Jesus for a conscious moment terrifies me.

I worry about whether I'm being faithful to my calling. I wonder if there is something different that I should be doing. I wonder if I've made the wrong decisions in the past, and whether these decisions have a bearing on my future.

I worry that I don't speak out prophetically enough. I worry that I've remained too silent.

I worry about things that are too vulnerable and too fragile to voice publicly. I whisper them in the stillness of the night, when I can hide in the cloak of darkness.

Uncertainty is hard. It's easier to be certain than uncertain, and sometimes in our rush to escape the awkwardness of uncertainty we make up or accept simple, contrite answers to our questions.

We live in a culture where we are expected to have an opinion or belief on everything, from the latest political policy to the most recent viral video. When asked about our beliefs, we have the tendency to make up an answer and bullcrap our way through a conversation. We choose saving face over hesitation; we choose the comfort of having an answer, any answer, over the tension of uncertainty.

But there is something beautiful about being able to honestly voice our doubts and say, "I don't know." 

"I don't know" recognizes that not all problems can be categorized as black or white, yes or no.

"I don't know" admits that I still have things to sort through.

"I don't know" acknowledges that I'm willing to sit in the awkward, to sit in the tension, and pursue a conviction worth having.

The pursuit of truth is a process that takes time; it can't be rushed. I'm learning to lie awake at night and accept the tension that comes with my uncertainty, trusting that the Holy Spirit will guide me into all truth in his time. I'm learning that the only thing worse than contrite answers is silence, so I voice my uncertainty to other believers who are on the journey with me. I'm learning that God can handle any uncertainty I may have, and he will never be disappointed in me for questioning and wondering.

I don't know... And maybe that's okay for now.

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