Tag Archives: Uncertainty

The Stranger

At first glance he wasn’t all that attractive, a little too rough and edgy for me. He wore a nice pair of pants, but his shoes were beat up and had a hole in one toe. He had a scruffy beard, neatly trimmed nails, and a smart fedora tilted over one eye. He staggered slightly and stumbled once, as he approached. Tall, lean, all angles and contradiction, he gave off a raw, muscular energy that seemed both sinister and alluring.

He looked in some ways like the type of kid, who back in the 50’s would wear his hair slicked back in a ducktail and carry his cigarettes rolled up in his tee shirt sleeve. The fact that he had been eyeing me for some time made me nervous in a kind of silly, excited, middle school way.

He was definitely not my type. Besides I have long passed the era of swaggering boys and dangerous glances. Yet he was coming straight toward me, with a lazy, loping walk, totally at ease with himself and his own incongruity.

His eyes seemed older than his body. Compassionate and understanding, his gaze invited me in like some grandma holding out a cup of tea and plate of cookies. I better get out of here, I thought.

But before I could slip away he was suddenly before me, leaning over, and asking, “Would you like to dance?”

I glanced around, “Me? You want to dance with me?”

“Of course,” he said, smiling now.


“Isn’t it time we became friends?”


At a recent gathering in Kansas City, I was struck by a quotation from German philosopher Rudolf Bahro shared by Margaret Wheatley, well known management consultant, who studies organizational behavior, change, and chaos theory:

When an old culture is dying,
the new culture is born from a few people
who are not afraid to be insecure.

O yikes, I thought. I spend a lot of time and energy figuring out how not to be insecure. Now I am supposed to get comfortable with it?

Who has not had a terrifying encounter with fear, which kicks all reason out of your mind and fills you with the powerful instinct to run, to hide, to attack, or to kill?  

Fear is an emotional response to a perceived or suspected threat to our security and safety. It both helps to insure our survival, and may also hold us back from moving forward. Because of its primal power expressed through our biochemistry, we may be manipulated by fear into silence, passivity, numbness, or reckless action.


The reality of fear runs through the Biblical narrative, like a long steel ice pick between the shoulders of the people of God. The gift of fear as warning, and as impetus to take some saving action, is often distorted and misapplied. Fear becomes the excuse for lack of faith, and for failure of nerve. We find ourselves unwilling to trust in a power and reality greater than the lying, sniveling fear, which makes us feel we are nothing, but grasshoppers in a world full of overpowering giants with very large feet.

(But the others said, “We can’t attack those people; they’re way stronger than we are.” They spread scary rumors among the People of Israel. They said, “We scouted out the land from one end to the other—it’s a land that swallows people whole. Everybody we saw was huge. Why, we even saw the Nephilim giants (the Anak giants come from the Nephilim). Alongside them we felt like grasshoppers. And they looked down on us as if we were grasshoppers.” Numbers 13: 31-32  Message)

Not counting the frequent admonitions to fear God, that is, to offer God respect and reverence (which is not the kind of fear I am speaking of here), the Biblical admonitions to not fear pile up, filling up several columns in my concordance. God tells us not to fear. Jesus tells us not to fear. Psalmists, prophets, and angels tell us not to fear. Peter and Paul tell us not to fear.

Like most good advice. This is easier said than done.

Though love is not the opposite of fear, it does seem to be the antidote. In I John we find the familiar verses, “Perfect love casts out fear. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (I John 4: 18)

At our core, perhaps, what we fear is the separation from the love which promises us protection, care, and life itself. When the gifts of love in our lives are threatened in some way, we fear the loss of the source of these gifts, as well. Love, itself, shall surely be extinguished. We often confuse the gift with the Source. The gifts are  fragmentary, finite, always shifting, changing, and inevitably imperfect. The Source, however, is unchanging, eternal, and utterly worthy of our trust. Losing that which is the core and center of all our desire is, of course, a lie, an illusion. For nothing can separate us from the Love of God as Paul assures us:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39  New International Version)

Margaret Wheatley suggests that during this time of tumultuous change and insecurity that what is needed in every organization are patience, forgiveness, compassion, generosity, and an acknowledgement that we will fail sometimes and that is okay. These virtues sound like love to me, perfect love, which casts out the fear that stifles creativity, freedom, and innovation. Perfect love breaks the chains, which bind us to a past we cannot change. Perfect love exposes the dark fiction we write about a future we cannot control. Perfect love empowers us to respond to the present, ripe with possibility and brimming over with life.


We make an odd couple, this older woman and her shape shifter of a partner. “I don’t know the steps,” I protest.

“Trust me,” he whispers, as he guides me onto the dance floor. “We will make the steps up as we go along.”

“Your name?” I ask gazing into those eyes.

He hesitates for a moment. “People call me Uncertainty,” he says, pulling me closer.

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Gracious Uncertainty and Jumping on the Bed

communion trayI held out the tray of tiny plastic cups filled with juice, freshly poured, bubbles still floating on top. He delicately placed finger and thumb around his choice, and went to draw it out, but it was stuck and would not budge. He tightened his grip, pulled, and the thin plastic cup shattered in his fingers. Juice flew onto the suit jacket of the fellow next to him, the carpet before the altar, and my white robe and scapular with the appliquéd wheat and golden sun. How can such a tiny cup hold so much? we wondered.

Sprinkled liberally with the blood of the Lamb, I finished the service and told the mortified fellow all was well.

 I like it that things like this happen when people pray.

I am at the hermitage (where I prayed for close to twenty years). The cabin is tucked in a hillside on a small lake. Out on the screened porch I am listening to someone in need of God. I am praying she discover the presence of God whermitageith her here, and, in her contact with God, find healing for her soul. Inside the hermitage my two daughters, ages four and six, are playing quietly. My guest and I sit still, leaning into the grace of the moment-listening to meadowlarks and watching willows bend in the breeze. After a while my children’s play grows noisier. Thumping, giggles, and something crashing to the floor intrude on the serenity. They are jumping on the bed. The more I try to focus on the silence and my guest, the louder the girls get. Finally I rise from my prayer stool and go inside. “Please be quiet,” I whisper. As I take Diana’s arm to lead her over to some books, she shouts in a screechy, ear-splitting whine, “Mom, stop! You are hurting my arm.”

Well so much for serenity, and all our holy poses and postures.

If nothing else, God is Real and is asking us to get real. For me the freedom to be real is the fruit of prayer and a central message of the Christian faith.

Why do we reduce the Feast of God to a thimbleful of juice in a flimsy plastic cup anyway? Why do we embarrass grown men by asking them to wedge their fingers, fumbling for cups fit for elves?  We mortals do the strangest things in the name of worship.

I have few answers, but I love it that the Living God breaks out of our little cups and categories and paints my expensive liturgical vestments with purple speckles. It makes me want to go jump on the bed.  Here is a God who keeps me on the edge of my seat, breathless and shouting.

Certainty is the mark of the common sense life – gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. O. Chambers


FYI, I got the stains out using a cleaning product called, Shout! It works great. Try it. And go jump on the bed.