The Grace of Uncertainty

Well, it’s been a long few weeks.

I’ve remained silent on current affairs, not out of indifference, but because of all I do not understand. I feel the shaking, I feel a dismantling within myself, a deconstruction of who I thought myself to be and all I thought was safe and secure.

It started two days before the election. A mysterious explosion in my neighborhood shook the ground and the foundations of our house, and I imagined myself a child in the Second World War with bombs falling from the sky. Police blocked off the street, investigated, then left. For days, we searched crime reports and news articles for clues of what had happened with no results. Still, I was marked that evening. The veil lifted: it revealed fragility and fear.

Fast-forward a few days: our nation dazed by election results. One friend likened the emotional aftermath of this election to the aftermath of a natural disaster or a national terrorist attack—the grief, the pain, the fear, the horror. Yes, but with a significant difference—while many are grieving, others are celebrating, even gloating, over the results. Again, the veil lifts, revealing our humanity, deep wounds of division.

Where the veil has lifted, I find myself questioning the “certainty” that surrounds me, certainty which takes many forms—pain and platitudes, directives and petitions, expressions of fear and hatred or shame and judgment. One friend fears deportation, another dismisses that fear as overreaction, and I find myself caught in between, understanding both perspectives, unable to validate either. I listen, I weigh, I seek to understand, but still something refuses to add up.

*

Who can say what will happen?
Who is right? Who is wrong?
Are these fears valid? Yes, absolutely.
Are they true? I cannot say; I do not know.

Are these even the right questions to ask?

*

Here, the Christian thing to say would be that God is good, He knows what He is doing, and He works all things out for good. But I remember stories that seem to say otherwise: Job, a righteous man who lost his family and all his possessions; Joseph sold into slavery to save a nation; John the Baptist executed in prison and Lazarus dying in bed while Jesus walked the streets; Paul traveling to Rome, knowing he would be killed in that city; and Jesus himself who suffered betrayal, torture, and death.

These stories come to mind and the questions rise: does restoration redeem the suffering, is the promise worth the pain?

*

A couple weeks after the election, within a three-day period, I learned that three women near to my heart had received cancer diagnoses: my grandmother given six weeks left to live, my mother’s cells turned malignant yet again, a friend diagnosed with cancer all over her body.

Here again, the veil lifts, and I awaken: we are mortals, blind and ignorant of each other, occupying our days with distraction, numbing ourselves to pain and fear. We live in illusion, flitting from thrill to thrill—talking, laughing, eating, sleeping—while time beats its death knell and decay wears our bones down.

Who can say what will happen? Each day feels like a gamble—is this the day we receive the death notification or news of a miracle?

Meanwhile, we live in the vast, uneasy silence.

*

I am Mary, weeping by the grave of my brother Lazarus. It is not just that my brother has died, but that Jesus, the one I loved and trusted, never came. And it is not just that he never came, but that he sent word that my brother’s sickness would not end in death. And yet here we are.

If I cannot trust Jesus, then who can I trust?

When he comes, he looks at me and he weeps. No words rise to his lips; what word could he say that would fix all of this, that would soften the betrayal, that would heal the aching mess in my heart?

*

It happens in the most mundane of moments—when I am packing a bag, or washing a fork, or turning a corner—and the existential despair breaks through the membrane of time and crashes in on me: what matters? What in all this world matters? What of all I have done or ever will do matters?

*

And I am Martha, standing next to my weeping sister at the grave of my four-day-dead brother, and Jesus asks, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”

I’ll admit: it’s easier to grieve and let the reality of death sink into your bones than to stand at the grave and let hope break open your heart again. It’s painful, it’s fearful, it’s vulnerable—the moment of uncertainty, this moment before the (dare I say it?) miracle.

It’s easier to turn your face away and live a small, practical, unremarkable life but he is persistent: “Do you believe? Do you want to see the glory of God? Don’t you want to see what’s on the other side? Do you have a yes inside you, no matter how small?”

*

Now here we are in the present tense, in the middle of the story, days before the inauguration, waiting for news, standing before the grave…and he asks me: “Do you believe? Will you trust me? Will you let me breathe hope into your lungs again?”

And I hesitate, and I ask myself, can I really, truly, fully and completely put my trust in a God like this, a God whose goodness doesn’t feel like goodness, a God who seems mad, wild, and untamable?

But here the revelation dawns: maybe something else is going on. Perhaps my definition of good is too small. Perhaps it is time now for what I thought was goodness to fold in upon itself, be whittled away, stretched, and re-worked.

Could it be that the uncertainty that rattles my bones is not something to be feared but is actually a grace, a grace that shocks me alive, removing every illusion of safety so I finally come running, desperate and vulnerable, into my Father’s embrace? Could it be that he so longs for me to come that he breaks me of anything that would keep me away? Could it be that there is a greater revelation of his goodness and his glory yet to come?

[And somewhere within me, beneath the questions, beneath the fear, beneath the despair, there is a yes, a faint whisper of a yes, but a yes nonetheless.]

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