Several years ago the television series LOST ended leaving behind a sad and depressed group of people who still pine for it—or at least one fan (me) feels that way. For the diehard fans, when the season finale aired, there was a division created. You either loved it, or you hated it.
The great thing about the show was how many questions it raised. You never had a sense of having everything figured out. There were smoke monsters, polar bears and hatches and somehow they all went together. Sort of.
And for years as the series progressed, people wondered if, as complicated as the story had become, there was any way the people behind it all had a clue where it was going. We were assured they did, placated with promises of resolution.
But of the 13.5 million people who watched the series finale, not everyone felt they got what was guaranteed. At the end there were still so many questions, and things that didn’t add up and people were mad.
Personally, I loved it. I couldn’t keep up with half the details that were supposedly left unaddressed, so that didn’t bother me all that much. Enough was explained that I felt satisfied with a sense a closure.
But my feelings towards this series finale don’t translate well to real life.
I happen to believe what I feel is indicative of a human thing and not just my personality. I think as people, we just like to have to answers. We like to have black and white and compartmentalized, easily boxed in and wrapped up ideas. We don’t like spill over, we don’t like gray, we don’t like messiness.
And the older I get the more I notice my tendency to gravitate towards hard and fast, versus uncertain and ambiguous. A couple of weeks ago I read that according to Anne Lammott, “Maturity is the ability to live with unresolved problems.” So basically given my tendencies, I’m aging, but moving backwards.
She touches on such a great idea—the part that really caught my attention was that learning to live with un-resolution was a sign of maturity—as if the older we get the less sure we should be of some things—when oftentimes the opposite is happening. But it wasn’t just that. Anne’s words got me thinking about the way I define “problem”. Maybe my issue is two-fold. I want to resolve everything, and I see everything as a problem.
Which makes me wonder if maturity isn’t simply living with unresolved problems, but fewer problems altogether. In other words, what if not knowing is not a problem? Maybe the mystery and living with an active awareness of not knowing it all—and being okay with it—is a healthier posture than grabbling endlessly and tirelessly for certainty just out of our reach.
This is hard for me—especially when it comes to my faith. I want to have clearly defined positions and well-defended stances. I want to be sure. But when I read the Gospels I see very little of Jesus answering direct questions. I see a lot of Him answering with more questions. I see a lot of conversations. I see a lot of confused disciples, baffled at the implications of what Jesus was suggesting when they were more interested in a few certainties they wanted nailed down.
Who is most important?
Who is my neighbor?
I just don’t think Jesus would have had to stay around as long as He did if He didn’t value some gray. Some tension. Some uncertainty. If answers and black and white were all He was after His gig would have ended far sooner. I think Jesus came caring more about narrowing down the essentials and embracing the mystery—but not simply by telling us to embrace it. He did it by showing us. By inviting us. By modeling this.
How exhausting to try to figure it all out. How much better to be able say, confidently, assuredly, certainly, “I don’t know. And I don’t have to know. I know enough.”
Let’s work on figuring out the essentials and then take a deep breath. Relax. If we did this I think we would be well on our way to mature—and experience a lot more peace.