I need help. I was wrong. I don’t know.
Those three statements are crucial to emotional and spiritual maturity. All three of them are confessions of our humanity—of the limits on our strength, goodness, and knowledge.
I need help: I can’t go it alone.
I was wrong: I didn’t follow through. I didn’t do the right thing.
I don’t know: I have questions I can’t answer, problems I can’t solve, and puzzles I can’t put together.
I need help. I was wrong. I don’t know. A couple of years ago, I saw a book I had been telling myself I would someday write: What I’ve Learned Since I Knew Everything.
As time goes by, a few things become more and more certain, but many other things grow more mysterious. I know more now about what I don’t know.
Why is it so hard for us to believe that God loves us? Why do so many of us have this hard, cold, inner resistance to the very thing—love—we want most of all? Why do we do what we intend not to do and fail to do what we meant to do? Why is it so difficult to change self-destructive habits and patterns?
And, the hardest question our faith confronts: If God is a God of power and love, why do evil and suffering exist? Why do children die from leukemia? Why does a beloved friend suffer from breast cancer? Why do car crashes change and even take life in an instant? Why does the sea, so immense and beautiful, suddenly rise up like a wild, raging beast of a tsunami and swallow thousands and thousands? Is the risk of human freedom worth the price we pay for it—terrorist attacks, warfare, rape, murder, physical and emotional abuse in the home, theft, and dishonesty?
I have some clues, hints, insights, stories and metaphors that help throw some light on these mysteries, but I don’t have fully satisfying answers—not the kind of answers that put the questions finally to rest.
I don’t know.
Toward the end of his lyrical lines about love (1 Corinthians 13), the Apostle Paul confessed his own ignorance: “We know only in part, and we prophesy (preach) only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end . . . For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
There will be a day, Paul says, when we will know as fully as we are capable of knowing; we will see as clearly as we have the capacity to see. For now, though, we see only dimly and we know only partially. There are some things we do not know and cannot know—about God, about life, and, even, about ourselves. “We know only in part; we see in a mirror dimly.”
The mysteries remain; the questions continue. The greatest mystery of all, of course, is not a question or a problem. The greatest mystery, which can never be fully comprehended, is God. And that Divine Mystery surprises us over and over again with what we need to live, not just somehow, but with hope. Because of God, even with all our questions, “faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”
My favorite, very provocative book of theology is by Charles Hartshorne. It is entitled, "Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes". That may be a [perverse? partial?]answer. Or, in Jung's book "Answer to Job" is a deep challenge to orthodox theology which also includes at least a partial answer–the dark side of the Divine, alongside the light, loving side. But then, for us humans, the Ego may be the best answer as to why we cannot ask those three questions, or open ourselves to love.
In a similar vein, one thing that bugged me growing up in the educational world till Graduate School was the fact that most of the teachers thought they knew everything When it was my turn I used to tell my students that I could use some help in looking at this event; I maybe wrong so help me out; if I do not know the answer I will have it for yiou tomorrow.