When I was very young I learned that “I don’t know” was an effective skill to not get into too much trouble.
When one has learned that answering a question wrongly can lead to punishment or humiliation, one learns to not take the risk of answering.
It was somewhat useful, but like most man-made coping mechanisms, it had a down-side. It had unrequited side-effects, if you like.
One was that answering “I don’t know” let me off the hook of bothering to express myself, of actually finding out what I thought, felt or wanted for myself.
Answering text-book questions was a matter of memory, but for opinions, it was best to not know.
But I want to know, so I have had to learn these things as an adult.
There are some things that I would have said that I did know – or that I believed to be true for me, or believed to be objectively true. I would have said that God is Love. That God is good.
Some people say they ‘know it in their knower’, but this never rang true for me.
Recently I am rediscovering how, after nearly 45 years as a Christian, many of those things that I believed that I knew, I now realise that not every part of me does know!
My head knows many things – about God, the world, the Bible, about myself and other people – but many of those ‘truths’ are not believed by my heart, only my head; and are not known in deep recesses of my psyche.
One by one, as I continue to pursue God and His ways and continue to open myself up to know His unfathomable love; little by little the path gets a little lighter and clearer…
One of my beliefs is that one day, I shall see and know Jesus, even as I am fully seen and fully known by Him.
What are you looking for? Do you know? Do you know what you want? What you believe? Do you know what is good and bad? What is true and right, or wrong? Does it change from day to day?
Don’t worry, I’m not going to test or trick you.
I was thinking about questioning and doubt. About its presence, its bad reputation and its value. How does doubt and questioning make you feel?
I like to be safe and to be right and sure. Don’t you? So unknowing, doubt, insecurity – such shifting sands make us feel out of control, vulnerable, insecure – and to avoid this we seek information to bolster our understanding… to know, to be certain… and for our faith – in whatever it may be – to be unswerving and strong. This may be about the basic routines of our day, for example, or our health report, our whereabouts and location when on the move, our plans and preparations for a big event, our political persuasions and support come polling day, our financial safety-nets for retirement, maybe actual insurance policies and guarantees and often our meta-physical persuasions or beliefs and our raison d’etre.
We want assurance, insurance and reassurance again.
I think of adventure quests and heroes in story-books and on film – dangerous quests to find truth, or treasure and for valour and honour – life threatening, self-sacrificing endurance, seeking, for that which is right and true. The stuff that makes heroes. The big questions – the meaning of life and all that. It seems to be part of the heroic side of our nature – to seek wisdom, seek truth at whatever the cost. The Bible is full of such wisdom too – exhortations to seek and find the lost coin, the lost sheep, the ‘pearl of great price’, which cost him all he had. To ‘Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.’ (PROVERBS 4:7) And Solomon’s asking for just wisdom over every other treasure… and so many other examples. Wisdom and truth are seen as great treasure.
When my children were young, they would frequently complain that they had lost something important and had ‘searched everywhere’! I would smile and ask them to look again and this time to actually take their hands out of their pockets and use them to look underneath the piles of stuff!
Because if it were visible, they wouldn’t have lost it!
To seek knowledge, understanding and truth often means to go digging! It means to turn everything upside down, turn it out, get our hands dirty… it means to disrupt our comfort, camp for a while in unknowing, in the unfamiliar and in doubt. It means ‘living from a suitcase’ in questioning and a vulnerable state of being unsure, not at home and not in control. We may have to disrupt and abandon all else… Sometimes it means to admit to ‘not know’ something and occasionally it means to discover that we were partially or fully misinformed, or misunderstood, and to humbly learn…
But we are promised that if we keep on seeking we will find; if we keep on knocking, the door will be opened; and if we keep on asking, we will be answered. We are promised that if we seek Him first, then He will be found and all other things will be given to us as well. Our needs will be met. It is a constant process that we will not come to the end of in this life on earth, and maybe it will continue throughout eternity. I do hope so!
But beware. Be humble. If we seek the truth, we must be prepared to adapt, readjust, enlarge our tent and maybe change our mind. There will be change. When we find what was lost, or find revelation and truth and wisdom, we are forever changed! We have to change, for growth is change. We have to be prepared to expand our limited thinking if we want to seek truth. New wine goes in new wine-skins.
Some say “What is truth?” They say that there are many truths – for each of us, our own truth. Some say that we find what we are looking for, and that we each find something different. Some say there is but one truth. Jesus says that He is “the way, the truth and the life”. Whatever the truth is, we are encouraged to seek it. It is not something to fear, but it is something to make space for, to humble ourselves to receive. For His ways are not our ways. His ways are higher and above and beyond all we could ever fathom or imagine… But trust Him. Life is constant growth and constant change. We will never know everything in this short life on earth, but we should not be afraid to learn new things.
We are invited to seek wisdom, to seek understanding, to seek growth, truth and life.