“Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.” – Gilda Radner
Isn’t it funny, the way we have to learn the same lessons over and over again? It seems that for the past many years, I’ve been circling around the issue of uncertainty and the future, and the moment I feel I’ve finally come to terms with it (usually when things are going smoothly and I’m feeling comfortable), it seems to shatter, and suddenly I’m drowning in the uncertainty.
In pursuing the life of a freelance writer + editor, I knew there would be ebbs and flows, some weeks and months would be busier than others. But I didn’t anticipate there being weeks with no work at all. I didn’t expect the panic of my dwindling bank account to hit me daily. I didn’t expect it to be quite so uncertain. Which is funny, since that is the very nature of freelance. But things just worked out for me so well for so many months, I just thought that the steady, fun work I had were products of me being exactly where I was supposed to be. And perhaps they were, for those months, but I’ve been learning a different lesson lately.
I have this fierce independence that burns inside of me, this belief that I can be self-sufficient, that I don’t need to lean on others for strength. And that arrogance has been torn apart as of late. God has been teaching me the graciousness of uncertainty, the reliance on Him for my daily bread, the humility of surrendering my plans and dreams as well as my fears and doubts, and laying them down, trusting that God will guide me. It’s the humility of saying, maybe my plans aren’t as good as yours, maybe you have more in store for me than I could dream up myself, some grand adventure that I wouldn’t dare to hope for. God is faithful. If I call for help, He will provide it.
In this time of uncertainty (or, rather, greater uncertainty than every other day of ordinary uncertainty), there are words that I keep returning to for comfort and strength. It helps to know others have fought through this struggle too, doesn’t it? There’s grace in knowing you aren’t alone. One is a passage from Oswald Chambers’ “My Utmost for His Highest,” called, Gracious Uncertainty. It reads:
“Naturally, we are inclined to be so mathematical and calculating that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing. We imagine that we have to reach some end, but that is not the nature of spiritual life. The nature of spiritual life is that we are certain in our uncertainty; consequently, we do not make our nests anywhere . . . Certainty is the mark of the common-sense life; gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways; we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness; it should rather be an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. Immediately we abandon to God and do the duty that lies nearest. He packs our life with surprises all the time . . . We are not uncertain of God, but uncertain of what He is going to do next. If we are only certain of our beliefs, we get dignified and severe and have the ban of finality about our views; but when we are rightly related to God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy.”
Also, this passage from “Mollusk Makes a Comeback,” one of the stories in the collection “I Knew You’d Be Lovely“:
“She walked all the way to the Bronx. The snow was stiff and crusty, but she was wearing sturdy boots, and was able to make steady progress. The air seemed to have gotten warmer, too. She was not a Dodo bird, complacent unto extinction. She was a mollusk, barnacled and determined. She would survive. She would survive and multiply, until one day entire wings of museums would be filled with her kind. Mollusk makes a comeback, she thought. Her cheeks were pink with the cold, which her mother always said brought out her good looks, and her lips were rosy with her new favorite lipstick. It was officially called ‘Brick,’ but Katie had conceived of a better name: ‘I’m not really a waitress.’ She marched to the Unlimited Tow Company, and on the way, she made a plan. On the cross streets, she asked her feet questions: ‘What are you so afraid of? What is it you’re running from?’ And on the avenues, she made them reply: ‘We’re afraid of failure, and afraid of success. We’re afraid of being loved, and afraid of being alone. The world is full of pain, and this is scary. And the world is crazy-beautiful, and that’s daunting too. Worst of all, so little is under our control.’ When she heard this last answer, she stopped and struck a deal. ‘All you have to do is try,’ she said. ‘Okay?’ Her feet resumed their motion. That was their way of nodding . . . Somewhere there would be a good part, waiting to begin.”
So little is under our control. I can’t guarantee that I’ll have work next week. I can’t pull work out of thin air, and I certainly can’t make bills disappear. But I can try. I can do my best with the work I do have, so that it is excellent and speaks to my skill and work ethic. I can be proactive and seek to find more work, and when I’ve exhausted that, I can use this time to intentionally learn, gain a fuller understanding of the world around me so that I have an arsenal of knowledge in my back pocket. I can use times that are slower in work to pour into relationships, acknowledging that I am not an island but that I do need support and wisdom, and that perhaps I have some to offer those around me.
There’s a lot of fear in the unknown, and even more fear when you feel isolated in that uncertainty. I’m learning to lay down my pride and acknowledge that I don’t have it all together, that sometimes life is harder than I thought it would be. It’s ok to ask for help, for support. Because, being surrounded by love and encouragement is a million times better than being independent. So, I’m learning to cling to the graciousness of uncertainty found in Christ, to work hard and ask for help, to remember that my fears and doubts are not the end of me, do not mean I’m failing. And I must say, I am always pleasantly surprised when, feeling that I am at the very end of myself, someone or something unexpected brings me a glimmer of hope. Life–in its fullest, most joyful sweetness–is found in these moments.
Photo via Pinterest.