Sometimes, all I can say is, “I don’t know.” And the truth is that I sometimes hate that answer. We feel like others expect us to know; sometimes, I expect myself to know…pretty much everything. My expectations (as they often are) are based on very little reason, but nonetheless, I feel like I should have a full-bodied, sensible and (more importantly) correct answer for everything. What I’m learning, however, is that there is tremendous power in simply saying, “I don’t know.” When it’s the answer of fullest truth, “I don’t know” can open the door to learning and growth. It also helps me stay humbly grounded in the limits of my own humanness. Lastly, when I remind myself that I don’t know and allow myself to just be there in the unknown, I find that I don’t need to know. It’s okay to be unsure. And that’s freeing in a way little else can be.
There are different types of not knowing. Sometimes, I don’t know simple information. Where is the party? Who was president in 1921? You know, information. Sometimes, the question is about what the best course of action might be. Should we save or spend this money? How do I approach this potty training pitfall? What’s the best way to address this pocket of shame I’ve just discovered inside myself?
A question that I hate not knowing the answer to is how I’m feeling. It took me many years to learn that I’m not the only one who struggles with that answer sometimes. I walked around with a list of feeling words inside my purse for years. I would take a moment, check in with myself and then browse the list. What word seemed right? I’d spent so many years repressing and suppressing my feelings, I’d forgotten (or never learned) how to identify them. I still feel feeble sometimes when I need 15 minutes to sort out what it is that’s going on inside of me. And 15 minutes is on a good day; other days, I need a lot more time. Sometimes it’s my motives that are a mystery to me. I can ask myself, “Why did I do that?” and even within myself, the truest answer is “I don’t know.”
I definitely still feel the pressure to know sometimes – a lot of the time. Yet, when I let myself release that pressure and my own expectations of myself, I can relax and release into the reality of what is. I can accept. When I do not know, I simply do not know. And that’s the whole sentence…although it’s only the start of the story.
My unknowing points me to Jesus. He knows. He always knows. He might not provide the exact answer for the question I’m answering in the moment I ask it, but He always guides us to the fullest and best answer if we allow Him to lead us on the journey. It’s hard not to know. It’s harder still to release into the not knowing and be there for awhile. When I tether my heart to the truth that Jesus knows and loves me more than I can love myself, I can find myself okay in the gray-area of unknowns.
We fear that letting go of concrete answers and certainty will make us feel more lost, untethered – but the truth is, friend, sometimes we really are lost. Sometimes I can’t explain an action or an emotion any better than I could identify a type of wild mushroom. We fear feeling lost, but the truth is, when we don’t know, being able to say that and be present in that truth makes it so that we can find a new, surer footing of humility. And from that place we can learn. We are works in progress, always, and to be on the road to somewhere new, we have to rest in the unknown first.
As you let this soak in, I invite you to ask the Spirit to show you areas where you’ve resisted your own not knowing. What do you need to lean into next, from a place of “I don’t know?” Also ask Him to show your heart the hope of what’s to come from embarking on that journey. His leading is always worth it. Follow Him. The journey awaits.
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