I kept thinking this week about the scenario I mentioned a few days ago about slaves wanting to escape. It occurs to me that this metaphor works for many of the situations in our lives. What lessons can we draw from it?
My mind keeps going back to those plantation slaves a couple of centuries ago. There were many of them. There were few people guarding them. Why didn’t more of them escape? Or at least make serious attempts?
The answer I keep coming to disturbs me, because it condemns me for things I’ve done at various points in my own life — maybe even including the present — because it suggests that the reason is fear and a cowardly need to be certain. Escaping doesn’t come through fear or chasing certainty. It comes from exercising openness and faith. Most of us are naturally afraid of the uncertainty in the distance, so we cling to whatever kind of bondage we’ve gotten ourselves into.
There are a lot of things I’m not certain about. In fact, “I don’t know,” is something I say frequently — and I’m comfortable with that. I know that if I insist on certainty before I take a risk, I’m dooming myself to a kind of misery stuck with what I have. I say that because I’ve done it before.
I’ve stood at the precipice of a risk before and pulled back — multiple times — not because I was about to do something wrong, but because I was afraid. I wanted concrete certainty that’s not possible in this world. That need for certainty shuts down the ability to remain open and to take steps in faith.
If I had followed the leading in my heart for my career, I would have made some different decisions over the last 10 years — and I would have started this website three years ago instead of three months ago. If I had followed the leading in my heart for my personal life, other things would be entirely different.
Faith and fear are opposites. If you’re afraid to take a chance on freeing yourself from the bondage that you’re in, you’re relying on your need for certainty, not on whatever faith you might profess. You can be enslaved to a government, to a job, to a habit, to a tradition or to almost anything else.
Things are different for me now. I’m not afraid. Well, sometimes that’s true. Sometimes fear of the unknown gets to me — and I start feeling a need to know things with certainty that I can’t know. It comforts me to know — as I set one uncertain foot after another into the unknown — that I’m not the only one who feels this, and it comforts me to know that the struggle with the need for certainty has been going on for thousands of years. In the Bible, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:7 that we “walk by faith, not by sight,” showing that it was clearly something on the minds of the people he was writing to.
For those of us who are Christians, it should be easier to have faith and turn loose of the fear and the need for certainty, but it’s not always the case. We believe God gives faith to some of us as a gift, but I have to keep reminding myself that He’s being faithful to complete the work He started in me long ago.