Chapter XI – Living with uncertainty
“And can any of you, by worrying, add a single hour to your span of life?” Matthew 6:27
It is interesting to me that this passage, and the beautiful one about the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, follows a passage about whether we follow God or money. And this is why I am a fundraiser in the church. Because I think that fears of uncertainties kill us from the inside-out and that gratitude and generosity are the only antidote. When I am trying to be my best self, I believe that letting go of uncertainty is a spit in satan’s eye along with the extension of a middle finger to satan’s demons. There. I said it. I will try hard not to be afraid, not to worry. And I will often fail and so need a Savior.
Raising my tolerance for uncertainty is the hardest heavy-lifting I have had to do in my life. I have compassion for myself because I remind myself that my parents, who gave me so much, did not give me the skills needed to face uncertainty. So I am having to use and train those internal muscles myself, and it is slow-going.
I want security and though I say I want faith, what I really want is faith and a huge bank account and a perfect cyborg partner. And yet when I see the wealthy around me I am aware that money really does not solve the problem of uncertainty except in my imagination. And the marriages I see around me leave me equally unsure of its surety. May this chapter of my Rule remind me that uncertainty can be as exciting as it can be terrifying. May I energetically recall to and how many wonderful, unexpected things happen to me and around me. And may I remain in the sobriety that many terrible things also happen to those who did not win the gene-poll lottery – a sobriety which inspires my philanthropy of time and money.
May I often remember the words of one of my teachers, Pema Chödrön, who says that “as human beings, not only do we seek resolution, but we also feel that we deserve resolution (entitlement). However, not only do we not deserve resolution, we suffer from resolution. We don’t deserve resolution; we deserve something better than that. We deserve our birthright, which is the middle way, an open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity.” (When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times)
I claim my birthright from within the waters of my baptism and my fists are full with that claim; I pray unable to grab onto certainty when I think I see it.
Financial systems will fail me. Friendships will wither and sometimes even curdle. My beloved dog Kai will die. The pottery kiln may oxidize, producing months of pottery ruined. A vacation may turn into a terrible loss. A lover may betray or leave. What seems great opportunity may turn into a disaster as might a sunny day turn into a storm while I am making tea.
And. And. Finances may be ok. And new friends may come along – indeed probably will. And Kai will live and play and love on me until he does not. And there are other dogs. And I can make new pots and I can expand new senses and a storm my turn into a sunny day when I make tea.
So my prayer is not that I am able to be certain, but that the people I love and who love me (and the dog) will share courage with me as the church molts under my feet, becoming something i did not choose but which may be wonderful even if fragile. And my prayer is that when I am frightened of insecurity and uncertainty, my head heavy with worry, God’s Holy Spirit will glow around my fears in a blaze of heavy glory, full of the pinks, purples, oranges and yellows of sunrises and sunsets – the uncertain shadows of transitions which are, in the end, nature’s great promises that all will be uncertain and well.