For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. (I Corinthians 13:12, NRSV)
When I was a child, I had a nickname, “big ears.” I cannot say for sure, but I assume it was given to me by my parents. In the home where we lived while I was in elementary school, my bedroom was upstairs at the end of the hall, as far from downstairs—and any conversations that might have been taking place there—as possible. But I was a very good eavesdropper and heard more than expected (or desired). I never wanted to miss anything (I do not know if such traits are genetic, but I do know that my mother is the same way.).
On the wall in my office at the college where I taught, I had a small framed print, “Knowledge is power.” The positive aspect of that declaration relates to the value of education and its ability to empower people to live more fully into their potential. However, there is a negative aspect too. I confess: I have often sought the power that comes from knowing everything whether it is mine to know or not.
So it won’t surprise you to read that one of the most difficult aspects of living through the COVID-19 pandemic for me is not being able to know what I want to know. How long will this last? When will it be safe to travel to visit my grandchildren, my children, and my parents, safe for them and for me? How much worse will it get before it gets better? And on and on…
Paul was not writing about a pandemic. But his words are both a challenge and a comfort for me during this time. The challenge is to be patient, to accept what I cannot know, recognizing that much of it is simply unknowable. The challenge is to let go of my need (very strong desire?!) to know everything and to make peace with living with what I do know. The challenge is to accept the limits of my humanity.
The comfort comes from recognizing that I do not really need to know everything because I am not in charge and I am not alone. It is the nature of being human that “for now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.” God is sovereign and understanding. God understands me and you and all whom God has created. God is present to help us navigate through the unknown. And at some glorious time in the future, I will understand fully. For now, with God’s love and guidance, I will strive to live at peace and make the decisions I need to make with the best knowledge I can gather.
Rev. Dr. Sharon Harris-Ewing
For God’s guidance:
Eternal God: There is so much about life in these difficult times that we do not understand and cannot know. Remind us that we are not alone. Give us wisdom to figure out what we must, patience to accept what we cannot, and the peace that comes from opening ourselves up to be filled with your loving presence. Amen.
Photo credit: Rev. Dr. Sharon Harris-Ewing, Grand Tetons, Wyoming, September 2018