I Don’t Know and That’s Okay

ezekiel-37

I almost pulled over when I saw the sign.

My son and I took the morning off.  I had a to-do list to attend to.  Cleaning to accomplish.  Writing to get done.

But we were tired.

Our family is having one of those weeks where we barely have time to breathe plus I’d stayed up late watching the presidential election results.

So, I abandoned chores, filled a to-go mug with caffeinated tea, loaded my three-year-old into the minivan and went for a drive.

I saw the sign on our way home while listening to my son chatter about “Batman” and “bad guys” and other highly important toddler issues.

Someone had posted a huge wooden sign on the side of the busy road saying:

Kristen, please come home. ♥

I’ve spent two days thinking about Kristen and praying for Kristen.

A sign like that stirs up my question-asking nature.  I’m always the person asking the most questions.  Always.

And doesn’t this just make you want to ask?

Who wrote that sign?  Who is Kristen?  Why is Kristen gone?  What turmoil was there, what bitterness or anger might have made her leave?

Or maybe she was taken?  What if someone hurt her or is hurting her?

Will she ever come home?  Will things change for the better?

Oh, Jesus, please rescue Kristen from whatever pit has her trapped and maybe scared or hurting.

I almost turned my minivan right around and parked in that lot to take a picture of the sign so I could remember.

But I didn’t.  I kept driving and turns out, I didn’t even need the reminder because Kristen and her sign are etched on my heart.

Here I had my precious baby boy right there in the van with me, still maintaining a running dialogue about superheroes, and another person—maybe a mom like me—was missing someone dear.

Since seeing that sign, not only am I aching for someone else’s pain and compelled to prayer on behalf of another, I’m reminded anew of all I don’t know.

I don’t know anything about Kristen or her circumstances or her family.

I have the most superficial awareness of someone else’s deep reality.

But that’s okay.

We’re people who love scientific certainty, but we live in an uncertain world and that makes us feel a bit shaky at times.

But sometimes the healthiest  and wisest thing we can do is admit we don’t know everything.

In the book of Ezekiel, God shows the prophet a valley full of dead bones and asks:

“Son of man, can these bones live?” (Ezekiel 37:3 NIV).

How would I have answered?

Maybe I’d have lacked faith that God could do the impossible and told Him surely those bones were dead as dead could be–as if I knew all there was to know.

But Ezekiel answered differently.  He said,

 “Sovereign Lord, you alone know” (Ezekiel 37:3 NIV).

God is sovereign, Ruler of all, in control of what we face, aware of all that remains hidden to us.

And we don’t have to know everything, because we know HIM and He knows….and that’s enough.

Every day, we face a million questions, so many without answers.

The questions themselves can be healthy–they can draw us closer to His side.  They keep the dialogue open instead of shutting it down in hurtful bitterness.

We ask:

Why this, God, and not that?  Why do I have to wait?  Why the hurt or the pain or sorrow?

This not-knowing, this life where we can embrace the mysterious and uncertain, can propel us to know Him better.

When we realize what we don’t know, we seek God’s perspective and His answers instead of providing our own.

We leave our problems in HIs hands instead of trying to keep control ourselves.

We stop trying to force our own plans and agendas and start resting in the arms of Jesus.

We can pray by trusting the Holy Spirit to be at work in ways we can’t see to help people we don’t know through issues we don’t fully comprehend.

I don’t know Kristen.  I don’t know her family.  I don’t know the story behind the sign.

I don’t know about a lot in the world, not about why some things happen or what God’s plans are for me or for others around me.

But I can know Him, and I can try everyday to know Him more deeply and truly, and I can remember this:

“Know that the Lord, he is God!  It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture (Psalm 100:3 ESV).

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 NIV

I Don’t Know

I remember the day when I walked among the stacks of books for the first time.

It wasn’t my first time in a library, of course.  I was “a regular” at our local public library.  As a teen, I had logged volunteer hours shelving the books in the children’s department and had become a mini-expert.  I knew exactly how much space we needed for our Berenstain Bears collection and for the rows of Dr. Seuss.

Eventually, I graduated to having my own back room in the library where seasonal books were kept in storage to be rotated out through the year.  It was my own personal responsibility to put away Christmas and pull out the books for New Year’s Day.

Yes, by the time I graduated from high school, the library was a comfortable place that I could navigate with ease.  I had long since exhausted the classics aisle, toting books home every time I clocked out of a volunteering session.

Then there was the day I strolled into the Undergraduate Library at the University of Maryland (UM) for the first time.  (Yes, Undergraduate Library, as opposed to the Graduate Library, the Art Library, the Music Library and others.)

Everything about UM was overwhelming.  There were as many students on the college roll as there are people in the county where I now live.  The buildings shot up floors upon floors and I had to ride a shuttle bus to the center of campus and still hike 15 minutes to my first class of the day.

I had a panic attack the first time I ate lunch in the dining hall during the noon rush.

Considering how large everything was, I should have been prepared for the size of the library.  I wasn’t.  I walked in and sucked in my breath.

I had one thought. Just one.

“I don’t know anything.”

(For those parents of teens who believe they know everything, let me encourage you.  A trip to a university library might be in order.)

You just can’t stand there surrounded by multiple floors of huge volumes and endless aisles of more books than you thought any author ever published and then books about those books, and books about the books about the books and think, “I know everything.”

Instead, you have the concrete physical proof that of all there is to know in the world, you actually know very little.

Sometimes life has its way of humbling you in the same way.  You may think you have a good grasp on God’s character and an intimate knowledge of His Word.  You may think you’re savvy to the ways of the world and an expert on life.

Yet, at some point you have to admit, “I don’t know.”

I don’t know why this happened this way.  I don’t know what God is doing.  I don’t know what the next step is or what’s in the future.  I don’t know how to help her or guide him.  I don’t know how to be the best wife, mom, sister, daughter, friend.

Maybe that’s when we’re closest to getting it right anyway.  Admitting that we don’t know allows us to trust God for the answers.  Humbly confessing our limited understanding frees us from slavery to independence so we can freely depend on our all-knowing God.

As Job sat among his friends listening to them debate philosophical questions of righteousness and God and sin and punishment, he must have realized the limits of human understanding.  It was simply inexplicable why God allowed his kids to die, his property destroyed, and his own body ravaged by painful disease.

And that was a better answer to the crisis than giving speeches from a makeshift podium and sounding like you had God all figured out and jammed into a manageable box.

At least that’s what God said. When He spoke, He pelted Job with questions:

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?”
“Who determined its measurements?”
“Who set the limits of the sea?”
“Have you decided when morning should begin and told the sun when to rise?”
“Have you seen the bottom of the ocean?”
“Do you know where light and dark begin and end?”  (Job 38).

What can we say other than, “I don’t know?”

That doesn’t mean we don’t study God and pray to know His ways.  We delve deep in His Word and ask Him for wisdom and understanding.
But at the end of each day, we keep it all in perspective.  No matter how much we know, we don’t really know.  We cannot begin to understand as God understands.
Ultimately, the one truth we need is:
“Know that the Lord, he is God!  It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture (Psalm 100:3 ESV).
We don’t know; but we know God does.  That is enough.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.