Clearly Ambiguous

I came across this quote by Henri Nouwen the other day. I could relate to his thoughts.


Our hearts and minds desire clarity. We like to have a clear picture of a situation, a clear view of how things fit together, and clear insight into our own and the world’s problems. But just as in nature colors and shapes mingle without clear-cut distinctions, human life doesn’t offer the clarity we are looking for. The borders between love and hate, evil and good, beauty and ugliness, heroism and cowardice, care and neglect, guilt and blamelessness are mostly vague, ambiguous, and hard to discern.


I happen to be one of those people who likes clarity. On the one hand I’m a bit of an idealist and a dreamer. I desire things to look the way I dream they “should” be according to my ideals. On the other hand I like logic. I want things to “make sense.” If you’re going to give me an argument for something it should be logical and you should offer specific evidence. Neither of these ways of thinking make living with ambiguity easy. And if there is one thing clear about the realities of life it’s that more often than not they’re ambiguous. I know this is where my faith must come in–faith in something bigger than my personal ideals and thought processes.


Funny thing is, there are some ambiguities, or mysteries, if you will, that I have no problem living with — the mystery of Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist, the Trinity, how God could protect His church and Truth through fallible human beings, or the mystery of the Communion of Saints. Even after examining these and finding reasonable evidence for believing in these teachings there was still a certain amount of ambiguity or mystery to accept because these gifts from God are so far beyond my ability to reason and explain. And yet, for some reason these are things with which I do not struggle. 


It would seem that if my faith can accept these mysteries I should be able to accept the smaller ambiguities in my life. But instead, I want to know, understand, explain and define. I have questions and I want answers. This can drive those close to me crazy (sorry Scott). These questions without answers can drive me crazy too. Which is probably why I posted this not long ago.


In Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke gives some advice I need take:


Do not now seek answers which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them…the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer…take whatever comes with great trust.


Life is clearly ambiguous. I need to learn to live everything and take whatever comes with great trust.  I need to keep that in the forefront of my mind. Perhaps I should tattoo it on my hand. Better yet, I’ll  have my friend, Tina, inscribe it one of these.


My prayer today:  Lord, help me to take whatever comes with great trust.



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