“If you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything.”
When I first heard this saying, I’d been feeling pressured to have a response–what to say—to those who’d called, who’d asked for an explanation of how/why my life had so abruptly changed. One minute I was a full-blown party girl, and the next, well…I wasn’t. The year was 1986. How was I to explain my life-changing decision? How would they understand the miraculous changes I’d begun to feel deep inside, without me explaining in detail what had happened? I dreaded rehashing the years of horrendous hangovers, terrible regrets, and the consequences that had all led to my new-found sobriety.
“You don’t owe anybody an explanation,” my recovering friend said.
“I don’t?” I thought, the people-pleaser in me wondering what it would be like to actually keep things to myself.
So, I practiced a few new responses, ones that sounded okay to me: I’m sorry, I just can’t go into it right now. Or, Can I call you back? And I would pray first, say The Serenity Prayer, and a healthier response would come. What a relief it was to me after years of offering copious answers to other peoples’ opinions and questions, to have new tools, especially the right to ponder things in my heart, the right to be private.
My friend’s simple directive had led me to understand, I owed no one an explanation about anything.
Being uncertain is an okay place to be.
I accepted the fact that there were people, places, and things I had absolutely no control over, and the future was a broad canvas that had not been painted on just yet. No matter what plans or promises I might have made, the results were still to be determined. There’s a paradox at work here: peace and serenity can be the result when we accept our uncertain futures. Especially when we know for certain, the One True God is quite certain about His love for us.
“My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest,” God said to Moses in Exodus 33. This was in response to Moses’ angst over the demands of the people God had put in his charge, the stiff-necked Israelites, who’d been hounding Moses for explanations for just about every move they’d made—and were yet to make–in their very uncertain Exodus. In God’s response to Moses, as in a number of Old Testament passages, I find comfort.
Uncertainty where weather is concerned tends to get my attention, as I now live in snow country. But a number of years ago, I lived in hurricane territory where weather predictions demanded I be prepared for the certainty of high winds, high tides, and the potential for high-volume traffic patterns on interstates during evacuations. You might say these all became my obsession during those seasons of storms. I never wanted to be caught unprepared, but occasionally, our home was hit with unexpected force. Those were very trying times.
I remember saying to my husband, “Would you please pray with me about us leaving hurricane territory?”
“Where would we go?” he asked.
“Oh, the mountains sound good,” I said, not at all joking. Eighteen months later, we sold our home, our business, and drove back to our home state of West Virginia. Our future was somewhat uncertain, though we had a plan for the next year or so. On the long trek north, where the terrain gradually changed from flat roads to quite hilly ones, we could not have foreseen my husband’s semi-retirement (after 25 years in the same career) would end up driving him crazy! With not enough to keep him busy, he was filled with angst until he searched for and found an entirely new career path, and began his second phase of working.
Where can we turn?
We turn to prayer for God’s great wisdom and guidance. And we pray for the people whose lives are plagued with uncertainty; for those who look for work to pay the bills, and those who are unexpectedly laid off from work.
I look back and can clearly see a faithful Father in heaven who has reached down to us again and again, reassuring us with that still, small voice, at our point of need.
“Be still and know that I am God.”