We tend, today, to want to have a road map of exactly where we are going. We want to know whether or not we have succeeded in everything we do. It’s all right to want to know—we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t—but we also have to understand that a lot of the time we aren’t going to know.
This is an excerpt from Madeleine L’Engle’s A Circle of Quiet which is not her best known work, yet perhaps one of her most profound. She addressed what she felt was the profound anxiety of her time – this need to know everything, which in my opinion, has only deepened and worsened some fifty years later. Technology, for all its advantages, has contributed to this disease of dis-ease. The other day, a friend asked jokingly, “What did people do before Google?” He answered his own question, “I guess people just walked around not knowing!”
Google can answer many questions; but no search engine has all the answers. The questions that L’Engle asks, along with other mystics throughout history, are always going to be with us as, at best, sacred ambiguities. Questions like, where am I going in life? Google can pull over three billion hits to that question is less than one second; but not one link will answer the mystery for you in your own mystical heart of hearts.
Maybe this makes you nervous, but there is another way to look at it. Perhaps the “answer” reflects what Socrates once said was the only “true” wisdom – knowing that you know nothing.
So maybe walking around “not knowing” is not such a bad thing. We walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7). Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). Just because we don’t know the road ahead, does not mean that we cannot trust, with MLK, that the arc of history is long yet bending towards justice. Or, in L’Engle’s words, “My favorite writers write out of a belief in a universe created by a God of love.”
May you, too, have such faith as you turn the page and continue the chapter in what is the great story of your life.