“Certainty is overrated . . . History teaches us that a lot of people thought they were certain and we found out they weren’t.”
— Brian McLaren
This week we’ll begin our 2017 Lenten worship series based on the book “Gifts of the Dark Wood” by Eric Elnes. We chose this theme for our Lenten worship and study this year as an opportunity to explore what can happen when we find ourselves in a “Dark Wood” time of life.
What we’re talking about here is the messy, uncertain, sad, empty, lost, or lonely places we all travel through from time to time in our lives. What we’re going to discover is that there are gifts to be found even in those places.
Over the next few weeks as we explore some of those gifts we might find in the Dark Wood, we’ll see that those gifts are not found by escaping or just muddling through those times and experiences. The key to discovering the gifts each of us may find in our own Dark Wood times is making the choice to live fully in those times so that we learn to see life through new eyes, allowing the Holy Spirit to nudge us, awaken us, and lead us to a fuller life.
We begin our Lenten journey in the Dark Wood this week with “The Gift Of Uncertainty.” Uncertainty, in and of itself, is not always a bad thing. We all know that. Who likes to go to a movie in which the end is totally predictable? What fun is a vacation when you know everything that will happen? Sometimes it is the uncertainty in our lives that adds interest.
Yet, what about the uncertainties we experience in those dark times in our lives? Uncertainty about health, relationships, financial matters, business, politics, the future we want and imagine — those are the kinds of uncertainties that can become a Dark Wood experience for any of us.
The Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians from his own experience of uncertainty: “Now I know partially, but then I will know completely in the same way that I have been completely known.” (I Corinthians 13:12) When something is certain, we know what to do. We know how to act. It is clear what choice we need to make. We can move forward in certainty with a sense of calm and surefootedness.
Uncertainty, on the other hand, can be paralyzing. It can keep us from growing, risking, trying new things. If our goal is always to be certain, we would never launch a business, make a new friend, be kind to a stranger, get married, or have children. I think it could be said that some of the most rewarding things in life have a relatively high degree of uncertainty.
Deciding to navigate the halting, uneven, sometimes wobbly steps through the Dark Wood of uncertainty takes a lot of courage. And yet, when we choose to make this journey, we most often find the gift of deepened trust, greater faith in God, and more acute awareness of the presence of God in our lives.
The story of the Healing of the paralyzed man by the Pool of Bethesda in John 5:1-12 illustrates this journey through uncertainty. The focus of this story is usually the miracle of his healing, but this Sunday I want to back up a little bit from that and explore with you how the Gift of Uncertainty the man experienced prior to his healing was perhaps the biggest key to his living a much fuller life from that day forward. I encourage you to read the story before Sunday and think about the plight of that man and future direction of his life after his encounter with Jesus.
Where is the uncertainty in the Dark Wood of your own life? What gifts could be waiting for you there?
I look forward to discovering the Gift of Uncertainty with you this Sunday in our traditional worship services at 9:40 am in the Chapel and 11:00 am in the Sanctuary.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster,