I don’t know. These three anxiety producing words are ringing loudly in the stratosphere right now. I-DON’T-KNOW when it will be safe to travel. I-DON’T -KNOW when we will physically be able to worship together in a church building. I-DON’T-KNOW when we will be able to go outside without a mask. I-DON’T-KNOW when I’ll be able to sit in a restaurant and enjoy a nice meal with friends. I-DON’T-KNOW when I will receive a steady paycheck again. I DON’T KNOW.
These three words require vulnerability on the part of the speaker and the hearer. For the speaker, saying “I don’t know” implies that you are ignorant of what is to come or what has occurred. It signifies to yourself and others that you are not in control.
For the hearer, the courage it took to come to someone else for answers cannot be diminished. After mustering this courage, to hear “I don’t know” is a let down (to say the least). There is a sense of disappointment when the hearer realizes that this sense of puzzlement, confusion, and disarray is shared. We are in a state of shared uncertainty.
Within this state of shared uncertainty, I offer this one suggestion. Instead of giving way to the fear that anxiety often morphs into; instead of defaulting to our corners and sinking into depression because of our lack of control; instead of lashing out in anger at the powers that be (or the nearest human being); how about we embrace our shared uncertainty?
By embracing it, I mean lean in. Fully rest in the fact that YOU DON’T KNOW and neither does anyone else. We’ve never been here before. There isn’t a manual, or a playbook, or an SOP. WE DON’T KNOW. There is a freedom that comes when you embrace it. You are free to admit you don’t have the answers. You are free to admit you are scared. You are free to admit that perhaps you aren’t as informed or as smart as you think you are. AND THAT’S OKAY! Because guess what? Neither is anyone else.
When we embrace uncertainty, we admit that we are NOT IN CONTROL. This allows us to focus on the things we are in control of. Our families, our response to this crisis, our own well-being. If we can focus on things that WE DO KNOW, then we can breathe easier.
We know that these are strange times. We know that no one knows when this will be over. So, let’s embrace it. Embrace the moments with family. Embrace the countless Zoom calls. Embrace working from home. Embrace online Church. Embrace the fact that YOU DON’T KNOW and rest in that embrace. Wrap your arms around uncertainty and invite it to sit at your table. NORMALIZE IT! If you do it will lose some of its power.
Embrace uncertainty . . . because it’s here – and let’s be honest . . . it’s here for who knows how long.