Reformation Lutheran Church A Congregation of the ELCA

April 11

Living with Uncertainty

When I was 21 years old, I knew I had not yet solved lifeís mysteries, but I also knew that I was learning fast. I considered my present rate of intellectual and emotional development and determined that I would have life figured out by the age of 25. You can probably guess that I did not reach that lofty goal. What I have done over the years, however, is get a lot more comfortable with uncertainty. Mystery is just a more pleasant word for uncertainty, after all.

I used to hate it when a friend would cite some bad thing that happened to her and say she was really glad of it, because she had learned thus and such, which would make her life better. Why couldnít life just get better painlessly? I was just learning to think positively, to consider that the world might have been a more joyful place than Iíd always considered it. I felt Iíd experienced my fair of suffering and was done with it. I wanted life to be an upward spiral toward joy, understanding, and freedom.

Then I went through a period of intense stress and got to learn new things about myself. Since Iím a messy and creative type who will never notice if your family photos are askew, I was shocked to learn that I have mild OCD. Iíve read that OCD is the mindís desiring - thus trying to force - certainty. What? I had always been annoyed by those who imposed certainty on an uncertain world.

I have learned that when I feel the strong discomfort of uncertainty (ďIf I didnít close that gate, my horse might get out and stand on the highway and be run over.Ē) I must recognize it and let the unpleasant feeling exist. It is the fear of uncertainty that causes the suffering. In fact, unless I die prematurely, I will lose my beloved horse someday. No amount of rechecking the gate will insure his immortality.

That we cannot control life is a sort of mystery. That we can learn to accept this uncertainty and relax into the unknown, being open to whatever the flow of life brings us, is another mystery.

My friends who celebrated their hard times because they learned and grew from them were on the right track, after all. And I get to keep my hope that life should be an upward spiral toward joy and freedom, because, even as age brings us new challenges, we have all the learnings of a lifetime with which to face them. My horse is edging toward his golden years now, and he has learned that most trash dumpsters along the road do not harbor killer mountain lions. He can relax as he walks by the fetid-smelling, bright blue contraptions. Likewise, I am learning that though I canít control life, I can relax as I pass by new fears on its mysterious journey. The God who is mystery will sustain and uphold me, even if I donít understand how.

Melissa Stanton

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