Keep a constant watch.
Guard against prideful surety.
Woe betide those who are wise in their own sight and prudent in their own esteem. — Isaiah 5:21, REB
People like certainty. In our world, the one thing we can count on is that horrifying thing we call “change.” Life is uncertain, unpredictable; with that in mind, it makes sense that we desperately seek something we can grasp and return to when we need to step away from the fluctuations of life.
There is nothing wrong with seeking peace. It’s good to have a strong foundation to uphold us as we engage with the world. What becomes problematic is the human tendency to allow our certainty to turn us into obstinate, closed hearted, closed minded, even cruel people.
Certainty becomes dangerous when we are so convinced of our rightness that (we) our beliefs, opinions, and truths can’t be questioned. Our standards are intentionally and impossibly placed in order to preserve what we consider to be fact.
In the U.S., our current political climate is evidence of the harm wrought from allowing certainty to close our minds, ears, and hearts (but not our mouths). Religious certainty is just as bad, making God into our personal justification station while all others must clearly be wrong or of the devil.
We can also be too certain about people. We want a short cut to having them all figured out, and we use race, nationality, religion, social status, rumors, and/or their past mistakes to form a usually biased opinion. After all, life is too complicated if we actually have to get to know someone… if we acknowledged we could be wrong.
The truth is that life is uncertain… and that needs to be okay. We are often wrong and we never have it fully figured out… and that needs to be okay. We are all on this journey together and it’s my belief that Sacredness is present in all of us, which means we have to be brave enough to take a chance on one another, even if it means risking our beloved certainty.
Peace be with you!
Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law — Luke 2:27, NRSV
We live in a world that is entrenched in its ways. Everyone has their political party, their religion or philosophy, their opinion, their tribe. Humans tend to like a fixed way of thinking that informs all the other aspects of their lives; a “home base” if you will.
The problem with this is that inevitably, our tribe becomes our idol. We close ourselves off to new ways of thinking or being because those novel opportunities scare the part of us that needs “home base.” As a result, we miss the chance to be a part of what God is actively doing in the world today.
This is where Simeon from Luke 2 comes into play. Simeon was “looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him” (2:25). Simeon’s connection to God’s Spirit enabled him to be guided by it, allowing him to see God’s salvation (2:30) when so many after him would be too blinded by their own expectations to experience God’s movement in the world.
For us today, Simeon’s lesson is all the more revalent. Our religious, political, or social “certainties” might make us feel safe and “right,” but they also narrow our sphere of influence and understanding. This in turn prevents us from loving our neighbor as Christ commanded, because the love of Christ defied the boundaries of the world in the first century and continues to do so today.
Jesus is the path of salvation no one saw coming (and by “salvation,” I mean unity with God). A poor carpenter’s son of no real worldly value or standing is actually the embodiment of the love of God and perfect unity with His will. To follow this Jesus is not to stake one’s self to a singular understanding of God.
Instead, discipleship is the acceptance that God is the One who said, “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14). As such, we must be ever on the lookout for God’s teachings and activities, dismissing nothing (and no one) out of hand, for we don’t know where He may appear. This is what it means to be “guided by the Spirit,” and it’s the only way we can break our narrow-minded bonds and experience firsthand the unity with God that Jesus exemplifies.
Let us free ourselves from “certainty” and open our minds and hearts to each other. In doing so, we allow God’s Spirit to do its work and guide us to the places we need to be in order to do what we need to do. Is it scary? Yes. Uncertain? Of course. Worth it? Without a doubt.
Peace be with you!