How To Not Know Like A Boss

A man pulls up to the gym in his car. He turns it off, gets out, looks around, gets back in and drives away.

Working out is all about the leaving, see. The whole purpose is that moment when you pull off. This guy knew he may as well just skip all the burning muscles and weights and sweat. This way he won’t even need a shower.

He's sure to get ripped.

The other day, I was chatting with my friend and she mentioned something her therapist said, something that has been liberating for her. During her therapy session she was spinning around about an important life decision, trying to reach a conclusion, an answer. The therapist chimed in.

“It sounds like you don’t know.”

“Oh.. yeah… I guess I just don’t know.”

Wow. Not knowing. What a thought. I have to say this new found trick has been incredible and I want to share it, just like my friend did. See, when I find some new restaurant, I want to tell everybody about it. “Go to such-and-such place and get the fish taco! It’s amazing.” In the same way, I want to tell everybody the beauty and the art of not knowing. “You have so much more brain space and you learn so much more! It’s amazing.” 

It’s an odd paradox. Not knowing requires more of me and gives me more at the same time. It asks for bravery and humility and gives me brainspace and peace.

And now that I’ve be a practicing not-knower for some time, I keep on realizing how much I used to try and know when really I didn’t. “Knowing” was just an “oh shit!” cover up. I must admit, too, that now I’m suspicious of people when they really, really, really know something. And the more upset a person is that you don’t know something… the more likely they skipped the journey of not knowing themselves. Conversely, the more space they hold, the more they've probably been there.

Now, I’m not saying it’s impossible to know stuff— I’m just saying it takes a lot of work (dare I say a type of work that is even more difficult than the rote memorization of Bible verses).

Some things I don’t know:

How to reconcile what the Bible says about homosexuality

How to engage with the Bible in general

If heaven and hell exist

How Christians ought to express their sexuality

How old the earth is

If Adam and Eve were real people

Exactly why men have nipples

 

On the last one, I actually may have an idea — something about our genderless form in the womb. The others… God knows. I think he knows… but I’m not sure.

And before you jump to the answers you have for all those things, please relax. This exercise is not about knowing, remember? Also, I once knew all those things, too. As annoying and embarrassing as is it, even people who were once very certain sometimes dive back into the swamp of unknowing.

Anyway, getting back to my chat with my friend, I asked “what do you think is the value of not-knowing?”

She said, of course, she didn’t know… and then put the question back on me.

I squirmed and replied “I guess you grow there.”

Just a thought: maybe areas of uncertainty are places God is calling. Maybe they are not a threat to relationship with God. Maybe if one dives in deep, they will emerge transformed — something way more valuable than a sackful of knowledge.

Of course eventually the dust ought to settle. I don’t mean to use “I don’t know” as an excuse for not engaging, not searching. In fact, I hope to encourage the opposite. I want more brains firing on all cylinders, trying real hard to understand stuff, but not so hard that they get all panicked and stressed. When you don’t know, just chill and pull the plug for a bit. This is probably not the moment God will damn you in some sort of sick "gotcha!" joke. You may have to not know for an hour or a year or a decade. This is really more about radical honestly than avoidance, feel me?

I find it intriguing that even Jesus once mentioned that he didn’t know. 

Some punk was trying to pin-down details about the “end times” (another topic I don’t understand).

 

Dude: “Exactly when is all that going down?”

Jesus: “Don’t know. Only Dad does.”

 

Jesus was the guy who was full of God’s wisdom and knowledge and also synonymous with God. Somehow even divinity holds space for not knowing. Bizarre.

I’m not your mom and I don’t give advice, but I am wondering out loud if there are other people who, like me, wave around a flag of knowing when really they don’t. I wonder if there are folks who never set foot inside the gym of unknowing because they think their muscles are already strong.

 

Jesus, please meet me in my places of unknowing. Teach me, grow me. Amen.