Leaving my business. Traveling around the country. Living in a basement. Preparing to move again. Wondering where my next few projects will come from. Wondering what to write.
I crave clarity.
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clarity // noun // the quality of being certain or definite (Oxford Dictionary)
If you wear glasses or contact lenses, you know the feeling. Click, click, click: the eye doctor makes her way through an assortment of lenses, trying to decipher which one works best for you. Then, voila!
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Clarity (regarding not just your vision, but your life in general) is heralded. Being able to identify and communicate the direction you are headed is a highly touted trait of leadership. As a culture we place enormous value on clarity, seeking it when making major decisions or offering advice.
The strange thing is, the more determined I’ve become to trust God (which in practical terms seems to mostly mean rejecting worry, striving less, practicing generosity, and trying to be content), the less clarity I experience. As clarity evaporates, I have two choices: freak out or continue to trust.
But clarity brings such comfort! Knowing where I’m going to live, how I’m going to make money, when I’ll go here or there – this “knowing” gives me a sense of control, the feeling that I can glimpse the future and it is good. The absence of clarity, however, often seems to relegate the coming days to some kind of shapeless void. The lack of clarity can fill me with fear or anger or confusion.
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When the brilliant ethicist John Kavanaugh went to work for three months at “the house of the dying” in Calcutta, he was seeking a clear answer as to how best to spend the rest of his life. On the first morning there he met Mother Teresa. She asked, “And what can I do for you?” Kavanaugh asked her to pray for him.
“What do you want me to pray for?” she asked. He voiced the request that he had borne thousands of miles from the US: “Pray that I have clarity.”
She said firmly, “No, I will not do that.” When he asked her why, she said, “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.” When Kavanaugh commented that she always seemed to have the clarity he longed for, she laughed and said, “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.”
– Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust
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Of course, the biggest problem with trust is that it often looks irresponsible and ridiculous to the rest of the world, a world obsessed with clarity and infatuated by control. And we don’t want to look ridiculous.
But everyday, my friends are taking small steps of trust. They are writing books when they don’t yet have a platform. They are becoming foster parents. They are adopting one more child than those around them deem responsible. They are leaving the cubicle life behind for an unknown adventure. They give money to others when it means they will go without.
They have traded clarity for trust.
What I’ve noticed is that at the root of this trust is an ability to be okay with their place in the world even when things don’t make sense. To find joy in spite of the diagnosis. Peace in spite of the loss. Love in the face of hate. By doing so, they carry on a tradition much deeper and more meaningful than the shallow, materialistic creed embraced by our culture. They give hope to all of us, that life can be deeper than a bank account. That there are more important things to look forward to than our next vacation.
They give me hope that my own, often unclear existence might still contain meaning.
They live these words from Habakkuk:
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength.
Do not put your hope in clarity. Do not let your happiness hinge on your comfort or ability to map out your own future. Do not be afraid to do something you know you need to do even if you’re not sure how it fits into the bigger plan. Even if it doesn’t make sense.
When is the last time you practiced ruthless trust?