Do I dare step onto the deck so uncertain. My brown boy mind thought as one foot floated in mid-step as the other foot rested fear filled on Tom Sawyer’s Island. See, there was a time when you had to have a book of tickets to get on rides at Disneyland. The E Ticket rides were the best. You needed an E ticket to get on Space Mountain. That’s all that were left in my book of tickets on the way to Tom Sawyer’s Island. As a child I ventured from the group and hopped onto the Paddle Boat. As the whipping wind produced tears in my eyes, I traversed this man made microcosm of the Mississippi River just to get to this island I had to see. My childhood heart beat so hard it felt like I was bruising the inside of my rib cage. It was Tom Sawyer’s island!!! That’s when it had to have happened. That had to be when I dropped that book of tickets. That moment of manufactured euphoria had to be when those remaining E Tickets slipped through clutched fingers or fell out of some puckered pocket. I must have stood on the banks of that fabricated island near Injun Joe’s Cave for 20 minutes before I decided to step foot on that boat without a ticket. Would they let me on? Does Disneyland have a jail for stowaways? Should I plan to live on this island till they find me? Where could I hide on the boat if I made it on? Every one of these questions came to mind as I decided to step onto and into the uncertainty of that deck.
This is exactly how I’m feeling again as I place my first few tentative steps onto the speculative deck of this new year. I’m weighing the rush of past months with the feelings of joy and disappointments previously held. My foot held suspended by far too many questions and way too few answers. This feeling is magnified exponentially because I'm sitting with a generation of young students, activists and entrepreneurs who are struggling with stepping into the uncertainty of this coming year as well. This got me thinking about the nature of uncertainty and how engagement with it could inform our spiritual growth. And what I am finding is the path toward God calls into question a value we hold.
We value certainty! We demand certainty. We search for it. We rely on it. We do whatever we can to secure for ourselves certainty. While at the same time God places a higher value on faith. Faith is to embrace the notion God functions with our best interest at heart and even if I don’t see it yet I will walk forward as if I do. Even into the uncertainty. And we are invited into this journey of uncertainty for very significant reasons. We like certainty because it gives us rules. While God is interested in giving us wisdom. We reach for certainty because it gives us plans. While God craves to give us purpose. We stretch our grasp toward certainty because it gives us facts. While God seeks to give us meaning. And let’s hear it for rules, plans and facts. All three of these things are very important and in some ways very necessary. But rules, plans, and facts are incomplete and sometimes very dangerous without wisdom, purpose and meaning. And often wisdom, purpose and meaning are found and formed by launching into the uncertainty of our times.
As I serve as a non-anxious listening presence for this incredible generation of innovators and activists they’ve taught me to meet uncertainty with small acts of everyday heroism. Enormous achievements are being accomplished by their dogged willingness to combat uncertainty with small heroic gestures. Rejecting cynicism, ignoring voices of disbelief, crying tears, sharing grief, being vulnerable, questioning long held opinions become these small everyday acts of heroism used to engage uncertainty. Making uncertainty a means of transformation instead of the gulf that stops them in their tracks. And as their Spiritual Director my job then has merely become reminding them who they are in Christ and what they’ve already been doing in the face of uncertainty. I’m reminding them to walk into the uncertainty by offering small acts of everyday heroism. Because you were never meant to stay on the islands of our past for very long.