This summer, our church has started something new. It’s a young adult intentional community called Beloved in the Desert, which is connected with the Episcopal Service Corps. A week ago, we commissioned the first group of five participants at our Sunday service. They will spend the coming months learning, growing, and pondering their spiritual and communal lives, through both faith and action.
These five beloveds are entering a year with not knowing. Each of them has come with a differing set of life experiences, prayers, and hopes for the year ahead. Each of them brings a unique set of puzzle pieces to a very important mixer that is likely to have a major impact on their lives. From the “outside,” we who support them in prayer don’t get to know what lies ahead for them, or what is unfolding in and through their souls because of their participation.
I’ve found myself remembering some of the interns with whom I worked when I was on staff at the Center for Action and Contemplation (that program no longer exists). One pair of interns, who met through their participation in the program, got married and still are on staff at the CAC. Another work intern also transitioned to full-time CAC employment. Others have moved on to lead meaningful lives in other ways and places, but return to Albuquerque periodically to reconnect with current and former staff and interns.
The impact of such intense internships is truly life-changing, but we don’t get to know what goes on in each intern’s heart. All we get to do is bear witness.
I am invited to accompany these beloveds on their journey. I’m currently praying about what I might bring to a conversation with them, probably on a Friday morning in September (your prayers are welcome for my discernment!). Perhaps I will talk about not knowing.
Not knowing is the first of two brief sayings that have become my mantras in recent months. They are:
I don’t get to know.
I am not in charge.
So often, in our culture, the focus is on knowing everything. Our twenty-four-hour news cycle bombards us with information. By implication, we become convinced that we can know it all.
America’s television reality shows draw back the curtains on voyeuristic dramas which I sense are the exact opposite of the mysterious unfolding of spiritual possibility that Beloved in the Desert seeks to support.
There is so much we don’t get to know, from the future of our looming climate crisis to the hopes and fears of each person who walks by us on the street.
Not getting to know can sometimes be frustrating, but it’s also freeing. For me, it’s part of turning things over to God, over and over again—because of the second mantra: I’m not in charge. I’m not in charge of who will, or should, win the presidency next year (having dutifully watched the two Democratic debates this past week, I have some ideas about frontrunners and ideas, but I don’t get to know, from a God-level perspective, who is truly “best” for the job).
I also don’t get to know what hopes and dreams each of those beloveds is bringing to Tucson and to God. I don’t get to know how the coming year will work out for them—what struggles they will confront and the ways in which they will grow. I am called to pray for them, but not to know them as God knows them.
SSJE Br. Jim Woodrum says this about not knowing: “There is great freedom in limitation, in knowing that you can’t do it all.”
Where in your life are you frustrated by what you don’t know? Can you find freedom and release in embracing my “I don’t get to know” mantra?