Experiencing the unknown is a constant part of life

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The baby starts to crawl. Eventually, he walks. He falls and picks himself up or lies there and cries. He's trying something new and outside his comfort zone. A child begins kindergarten. Often he's frightened, like a little bird learning to fly. He's forced to let go and enter that strange scary world of the unknown. Is anything without some amount of stress at the beginning?

Think back on your life. How many changes have you made? How many times have you had to leap off that cliff, hoping someone or something would catch you? How often do you still enter realms that you know little or nothing about?

I know a family in the military who often has to move. Each place they move to is somewhere they've never been before. The husband starts a new job, the wife has to find new schools for the children and make friends so she can again feel that she's at home -- so the unknown will become the familiar.

A woman has just been told that she has cancer. She doesn't know what the future with the disease will hold. She begins treatment and loses her hair. She cares how she looks, so she boldly enters the arena of buying wigs. Her therapy ends and she becomes cancer-free -- at least for her five-year time frame.

Her fear has waned, but she has learned a lot by experiencing that unknown. "I never have a bad hair day now," she says. "I am just glad that my hair grew back." She bravely faces each day now with a smile because every day is a gift and a blessing. You never know what the future holds because, no one knows what tomorrow will bring.

A couple had been married for many years. They thought they would be together until death parted them. The wife never had a second thought that things would always continue as they were. She thought she did her part, but her husband saw things through different lenses and decided that marriage was not his game. It's a scenario one never believes will happen but is all too common.

You have a friend from high school. It seemed that he had everything going for him, especially in the material sense. Your life seemingly failed to measure up to his. Then suddenly you heard his wife was dying. You watched his demeanor as he tried to keep up a courageous and positive front. You marveled at his ability to continue asking how you were doing. Finally the time came and his wife of many years died. He is still living and appears to be managing quite well. You realize again that one never knows what will happen next. One can only recognize and trust in the Scripture passage Ecclesiastes 3:1 when it says, "There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the sun."

My dad suffered a stroke when I was quite young -- another unknown. He had driven his tractor in the fields the day before. He fell trying to get out of bed the next morning. He had no warning, but that unknown changed all the lives in our family.

The whole of life is unknown except for one constant, God. Psalm 63:1-2 tells people how to deal with what's unseen: "My soul finds rest in God alone my salvation comes from, him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, he is my fortress. I will never be shaken."

Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.

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