Years ago, I ran across a book called The Cloud of Unknowing, which (fittingly enough!) was written by an unknown author in the 14th century. It basically talked about how life on earth is nothing certain and how we must be content with unknowing, instead loving and trusting the Lord.
I probably need to pick this book up again.
Early this month, I went away on retreat. At the beginning and end of it, we are encouraged to pick an image from a stack that describes where we are. At the end, I picked a road covered in fog.
And then because the Lord is good and likes to hammer in certain points, it was very foggy my entire way back to Green Bay for clinical and then the next day as well.
I have so many nebulous questions about my future: where will I live? What kind of NP will I be? When will I meet my husband? What’s my mission? What’s my vocation? What relationships should I invest in?
They’re nothing unique. They’re nothing new. But what I am realizing is that I do not need to know where the road leads. I see the path immediately in front of me (about a year of school and clinical). And that should be enough for me.
But I want to know more. I have always had issues with not knowing. I like a plan. I like an agenda. I like goals. I like meeting those goals. I like certainty. I have a high need for cognitive closure.
In Charles Duhigg’s Smarter Faster Better: The Transformative Power of Real Productivity, he discussed cognitive closure and how having a high need for it can be a detriment. As he wrote:
“…there are risks associated with a high need for closure. When people begin craving the emotional satisfaction that comes from making the decision – when they require a sensation of being productive and orders to stay calm – they are more likely to make hasty decisions and less likely to reconsider an unwise choice…. when people rush toward decisions simply because it makes them feel like they are getting something done, missteps are more likely to occur.
Research describes the need for closure as having multiple components. There is the need to “seize” a goal, as well as separate urge to “freeze” on an objective once it has been selected. Decisive people have an instinct to seize on a choice when it meets a minimum threshold of acceptability. This is a useful impulse, because it helps us commit to projects rather than endlessly debating questions or second-guessing ourselves into a state of paralysis…However, if our urge foreclosure is too strong we freeze on our goals in order to grab that feeling of productivity at the expense of common sense…When we’re overly focused and feeling productive, we become blind to details that should give us pause.
It feels good to achieve closure. Sometimes, though we become unwilling to sacrifice that sensation even when it’s clear we’re making a mistake.”
– Charles Duhigg, Smarter Faster Better: The Transformative Power of Real Productivity
That describes me so much. I am loyal to a fault in that I stay in relationships when they are no longer good for me. I stay in jobs that I’m not happy in. And I definitely become blind to details that should give make me stop dead in my tracks.
If I had a clear picture of where I should go, I might not go where I ought to. When I get a goal, when I decide to achieve something, I become blind to a wide variety of opportunities around me. I am also loyal, so when I am in something I don’t like, I tend to stick with it because I feel I should.
So, I understand why God is allowing is having me journey in a fog. If I saw too much of what is ahead, I would fixate. There is a lot I don’t know right now. I don’t know what is going to happen with my career. I don’t know what I’m going to like and dislike in my clinical. I don’t know if staying in Milwaukee is going to be the best option for me. I don’t know about some of my relationships and what those are going to look like in the next year.
But I do know my Lord. He is good. He is faithful. He is patient. And best of all, He is with me.
He is with me in the unknowing and knows what is best for me. He is with me in the frustrating moments of where I am, offering Himself. He is waiting for me to walk with me, and I know He is slowly unraveling a life that I am going to be in awe of.
I am so tired of blazing my own path with clear destinations but journeys that leave me tired, frustrated, and more broken than when I’ve begun. I have no idea where my life is going, but that surrender is so refreshing. I do not need to be the one to figure everything out. Jesus is with me, and He can take care of all of that. All I need to do is walk with Him where I know He has lead me so far. The journey will show me where to go. Roads do not suddenly veer off into unforeseen directions. I will have time to choose when that time comes.
For now, all I need to do is walk where the path is clear. There might be fog quickly on the horizon, but that fog will clear when I get there. The next couple steps are clear, and that’s all I need to see right now.
Here’s to embracing the unknown.