I always thought my parents and these grown-ups had a super-secret system for organizing their life and making Huge Forever-Changing Decisions. Writing checks and doing taxes and paying the rent was like second nature to them. Me in my little kid boots, a sore neck from looking up all the time: it was daunting to think of being a grown-up.
It turns out, they were guessing most of the time.
Deep into the latter stages of life, by the time youth is like a rattling cough that you’re trying to shake, even the control freaks are mostly shooting in the dark hoping a shotgun spray will hit something. Brain surgeons, astronauts, molecular biologists, and quantum physicists, all the most exact of sciences, are sweeping broad brushstrokes at their vastly unknown fields. Generals, politicians, and Navy Seals have to make precise calls at exact times with total order-barking confidence, but they’re still riding a lot on hope. As in, I hope we don’t die. As in, I hope we don’t do anything stupid.
We can call it luck. Sometimes the dots connect, stars align, planets stop: we get lucky. We make meaning out of events that appear orchestrated. A sign tells us go here, so we go there. A voice is louder than another, so we follow the louder one. A response is needed now, so one is made without much thought. This is how we live. A million decisions happen in a blur, and we’re lucky to be conscious of even a few of them.
Is that really the only way?
Most of us pretend we know way more than we think. I can see why. When people constantly second-guess themselves, nothing gets done. Children lose ambition, the economy collapses, a world starves. Maybe some action is better than none.
But pretending to know more than we do: that’s worse than stagnancy. All those generations of misinformed movement have created the most misguided generation of our history. It was bound to catch up sooner or later. We have more voices now than ever, more petitions, rallying, protesting, but less substance and meaning and direction.
There’s a time when we need to admit, “I have no idea what I’m doing here. I need help.” We’re just people. We cannot claim to be more. We play gods: we lose.
Often we easily drown in the temporary stuff of our sight instead of the long view of vision, and we lose both.
A man who was once blinded on his path to destruction wrote, “We live by faith, not by sight.” He was on the way to kill people; he was certain this was his life mission. But someone else who knew better stopped him short. It wasn’t just a “sign,” not just another voice, not luck. God knocked him flat. When his real mission hit him, he had to grow up for real. Your real self is just around the corner, waiting to knock you flat too.
There’s someone else running the show here. He is for us, and He actually knows what He’s doing. We’re told to follow Him because it’s the point. He has a Word that tells us about our real selves, a Word that runs on faith because it invites all kinds of mockery and new kinds of doubt. Ask Paul. The Word became as real to him as his sight, and it fueled his vision.
You’ll still be guessing. But that sort of guessing will no longer be in the dark.
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
— Isaiah 9:2
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
— 1 Peter 2:9