There’s a certain spiritual discipline which I’ll call “comfort with ignorance.” It has other names obviously, but that’s the one I’ll use for now.
I’ve talked about how Christianity is a rational belief system. It isn’t something that we believe without evidence. It isn’t something we believe in spite of evidence. It’s something that we believe and think about and wrestle with, and which happens also to be true and compelling.
But there are parts of it which we submit to by faith, not because they’re irrational, but because they’re simply mysterious. (“Simply Mysterious.” I just said that?) So it isn’t that we believe triangles are also squares even though that doesn’t make any sense. It’s more like believing that triangles can never change shape, even if we can’t understand how that’s possible.
(You can try this for yourself; take three straight things, like sticks or straws, and make a triangle out of them. Now try to make any other shape out of them, without of course fetching more sticks or straws. You can’t. You’ll always get that first triangle. I know this. I can prove it. It still amazes me. This is why they put triangles in buildings: other shapes can collapse or skew, like a square into a diamond or an octogon into a plus sign; triangles can’t.)
How about I dive into the specific example I’m thinking about, rather than trying to explain something in the abstract.
I have no idea how someone like me, with the gifts I have and the weaknesses I have, is supposed to serve God. I’ve read enough to feel quite insignificant, and mostly silly. I hear the way people talk about me when I’m around; I can’t imagine that they save the nice stuff until after I leave. I am, in a phrase I coined accidentally by slurring other meaningful things, a “waistless lump of goo.”
In a way that might be telling–one can never quite tell how the Spirit will work–I mistyped that “wasteless lump of good.”
I don’t see it. And therein lies the discipline: I will believe it though I can’t understand it.
In one of his essays, C. S. Lewis talked about how it isn’t necessarily given us to understand the use or importance of our tasks. They may be for someone long after us, whom we will neither see nor know. Or, to be all Biblical about it, we might die before seeing the fulfillment of the promise.
Because our creation is a promise. Or, to make it personal again, my creation is a promise. God does not waste time. If he made me, he made me because he judged that a person like me would be a good idea. A person like me would be a good. Now, it isn’t necessarily the case that a person like me will understand the good I am, any more than I can always understand the good of anything else. But I can trust God about this.
And that’s the comfort with ignorance. I strive to be comfortable with ignorance about how someone like me could be a good idea, how any of my fumbling and failing could serve God. It may not be given to me to know. But if I am trying to serve God, am trying to be obedient to God, am trying to be the person he created me to be, then I can trust that the good is true regardless of whether I see it. The same God who knew me and designed me, knows how to use me.
As a pressing example, I’m ignorant of how this rambling mess could ever be helpful to anyone. But I’m supposed to post it. (Right now actually, since I’m out of time.)