I was talking with a dear friend a couple of weeks ago, and in response to a question I asked her, she said, “I’ve become much more comfortable with mystery and the not knowing in the last few years.”
Her tone of voice didn’t hold any of the angst that I feel toward not knowing and uncertainty, and mostly, I’m looking forward to the day when I can speak with such, well, certainty about feeling uncertainty.
I know that the last couple of years have put a lot of us through the wringer as far as uncertainty goes. I’ll be the first to admit I’m tired of this particular brand of uncertainty and I’d rather be able to live life with less of it.
It seems like all the practice I’ve gotten in the last couple of years with changed plans and dashed expectations and readjusting how life looks would have made uncertainty easier to deal with.
I actually was speaking with her of uncertainty in another area of life, unrelated to illness and pandemics, etc. etc.
However, her words have been reverberating in my head periodically since our conversation, and, as those bits of wisdom usually do, they’ve become part of my reflections on other parts of life and this season of the year.
For instance, I was thinking about the birth of Christ this week. (No surprise there, since Christmas was a few days ago.)
But I had a series of thoughts that I haven’t had before.
Maybe it’s because at this age in life, I have a bunch of pregnant friends, along with little ones in my life.
Or maybe it’s just that Christmas involves the birth of a baby.
No matter what spurred it, I was thinking . . .
The Messiah, the chosen King, came to us in the form of a baby. I suppose God could have become a man in some other supernatural way and plopped down among us in the form a full-grown man, ready to save the world.
But he didn’t.
Part of that purpose, as many have said, was so that he could experience the full breadth of the human experience and be able to identify with us in our weakness, pain, and vulnerability.
However, I was thinking too about that song, “Mary, Did You Know?”. And no, none of us, Mary included, knew exactly what Jesus would do in life as she held her brand new baby in her arms.
That’s normal, though: When a mom holds her brand-new infant in her arms, she can imagine all kinds of things about what that child will grow up to be and do. But what reality will be is, in fact, a mystery to her.
So it was with Mary. She knew some things – that the birth was miraculous, that He was God with us.
But did she know exactly what his personality would be like? What his laugh would sound like? What his talents and abilities would be? Whether or not he’d like eating olives and fish?
No. She didn’t.
A newborn baby, while being precious and sweet and full of weak little cries and wet diapers, is a mystery to us.
Jesus was the same.
And I was thinking how fitting that was.
All the people expected the Messiah, their rescuer-king, to be a certain way.
But God, in his wisdom – and maybe even in his sense of humor, to blast away our preconceived notions – sent His Son as a baby who was as mysterious to his mother (and to the rest of the world) as a baby is to any new mom.
And she, along with the other people around him, got to know him as he grew and learned along with the rest of humanity.
The mystery unfolded a bit more with each passing year until, in the fullness of time, he was a grown up, who ministered and taught, healed and loved, and died and rose again.
So I’m pondering the idea of mystery and uncertainty and the “not knowing” and how to be content with that.
Maybe instead of worry and gnawing unease, I can practice replacing those with the wonder and eager anticipation, the contented trust of a new mother who will watch and see, in the fullness of time, how the mystery of her little one’s future will eventually be made clear.
Oh, that wonder, anticipation, and contented trust would replace the angst and impatience that I default to feeling when faced with the as-yet-unknown.
Because, truly, in the fullness of time, all that is unknown and uncertain will unfold. It will most likely be different than I expect it will be.
But it will be good.
I wasn’t planning to publish this post right before New Year’s Eve. But it is fitting. I think it’s fitting because we’ve learned not to set our hearts completely on any plans in the last couple of years. But maybe I – and perhaps you? – can learn to be a little more comfortable with the existence of so much mystery in our lives as we walk into yet another new year.
I hope your new year is a happy one.
But even if what is mysterious brings more heartache, stress and pain, I hope you have the comfort of knowing the One who came and experienced what we humans experience – and loves us no matter what.
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