A few days ago, I was at a bookstore browsing titles having to do with business success. They reminded me of cheesy infomercials. All promising to have the key to success.
From business to sports to relationships, we are obsessed with the idea that we can predict or control the future. One of my movie pet peeves is when love interests say to one another, “I’ll never hurt you”. It makes me want to yell at the screen, “Yes you will! You’ll hurt them like nobody else will, but that is love.” Sometimes I do and Kylie shakes her head at me.
We love the idea of removing uncertainty. That there is something that can be done to ensure success, avoid pain, and eliminate the agony of mystery.
The truth is we cannot predict what will happen. We cannot fully control or foresee what the future holds. Whether you call it luck or fate, there are certain mysterious forces at work that make this life unpredictable. And despite our discomfort, that is not an altogether bad thing.
Mystery is painful because it frightens us. We start to create worse case scenarios in our heads. And even when things happen, our frightened expectations seem to be self-fulfilling prophecies that make the experience worse than it needs to be.
Have you ever seen a kid fall and then look up to their parent; when the parent freaks out, the kid cries more than he might have otherwise. Our fear of the uncertain taints the way we view our present circumstances. It changes how we perceive reality.
So, we have worked ourselves into a frenzy, compounding our fears and confusing our realities. It is a bit of a trap; the harder we try to get out of it, the more it confuses and constricts us.
For many of us, life has boiled down to one simple endeavor: remove the threat of uncertainty. We do this by control, manipulation, or refusing to accept reality.
If we are going to live with uncertainty, we have to accept the inevitability of its discomfort. We have to allow for it to make us feel frustrated and confused. But we don’t have to let it consume us. We don’t have to be afraid.
The Beauty of Uncertainty
Our fear of what we do not know and cannot control often robs us of the beauty of uncertainty. We think so much of what can go bad and how unprepared we might be for it that we forget the same thing can work to our advantage. What would life be without the surprise of finding out you are pregnant or overcoming a challenge you weren’t sure could be conquered?
Mystery is a beautiful thing. It drives discovery. It pushes us toward faith. It spurs us to press into community. Uncertainty is the best medicine for complacency; it challenges us to be aware and intentional.
Life is hard and it will be hard. Fighting against this reality is more than a waste of time; it is a waste of opportunity. By accepting the complexities of mystery, we allow ourselves to wait with courage, to achieve with open hands, and to relate with grace and truth.