The power of not knowing

Faith & Inspiration

Summer is fast approaching. May is more than half spent. The days are getting longer and hotter. So too are the political pontifications. This past weekend, Chicago became the first U.S. city other than Washington to host a NATO summit. Delegates from the 28 member countries gathered to discuss various matters, but particularly Afghanistan. Maybe you heard the protestors. They were loud.

And, if you hadn't noticed, it's an election year, so we'll soon be deluged with party conventions, raging debates, and candidates hitting the campaign trail even harder. We will hear pomp and bluster and be swept off our feet by grandiose promises. We will have economic, education, military, and domestic agendas hurled at us from all directions. But there's one thing we will not hear, at least not in sincerity-not once, not ever:

"I don't know."

Our culture is one in which not knowing is anathema. Well, publicly admitting that one doesn't know is anathema. And this is magnified greatly for those in leadership. But I dare say it's not entirely their fault.

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We have created a culture in which leaders must be saviors. We look to them for answers that they are ill equipped to give and solutions they are incapable of finding. We would rather hear them carry on with some semi-convincing, well-spun blather than simply admit they don't know. We create an untenable environment in which they are not allowed to be wrong and thus cannot be right.

It's not only public figures who suffer from this malady. They're just the easiest to discern. I suffer from this daily as a husband, father, theologian, writer, and employee. In little ways I attempt to set myself up as a pseudo-savior. I suspect you do too in your own everyday life.

So let's practice. Say it with me now: "I don't know." It may have tasted funny on your tongue, but it is a powerful phrase. That's because it expresses honesty, humility, and reality.

Ironically, the most honest, humble, and real person in history never had to say this phrase. That's because, unlike us or our talking-head faux saviors, Jesus really did know the answer to every question and the solution to every problem.

To stack enigma on irony, think about this: In order to best represent Jesus, the One who knew everything, we must regularly admit how little we know. In order for people to see Him with clarity we need to get out of their way and let them see that He has all the answers and all the solutions. The more we try to answer questions or solve problems we can't, the more we distract from the One who truly saves.

Not knowing is OK. We're human, after all. It's especially OK because there is one who does know. And he's not running for president.

Barnabas Piper
Barnabas Piper

Barnabas works for Lifeway Christian Resources and is the author of The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity and Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt Is Not the Enemy of Faith. He and his wife live in the Nashville area with their two daughters. Follow Barnabas on Twitter @BarnabasPiper.


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