Everything we have, all that we feel is stable, and all that we know can be snatched from us in a moment’s time. It is Quincy Jones who wrote:

Everything just change; nothing stays the same!
Everyone must change! Nothing and no one stays the same.
There are not many things in life we can be sure of..except
Rain comes from the clouds
Sun lights up the sky
And hummingbirds do fly

The Unknown is a spiritual reality. It walks with us and is never far from us. In that sense, it is a counterpoint to God who offers the certainty of His/Her presence, even in the time of trouble. The Unknown knows the terrain before us, just as God does. But the Unknown is not God; the Unknown drops in on us at the worst times and presents life … and then leaves us to deal with the consequences of that unexpected presentation.

I listened to the story of a young mother who had five children. She and her family lived in a low-income apartment, and one of the rules for living there was that there was to be no violence by the renter in that living space. Said violence would result in eviction.

It happened that her 16-year-old son had an ex-girlfriend who was angry over their breakup. She turned up, unexpected, at his house, where he was watching television with his mother and siblings. She and a couple of young men she had brought with her burst in the door of this young man and shot him five times. Remarkably, he survived. The mother’s and that family’s world was turned upside down at that very moment.

The day after he was shot, she was given an eviction notice. She had three days to get out of her apartment, the management said. They did not care about her, her children, the fact that the young man lay near death, that the family had nowhere to go, that being evicted meant the children would not be able to continue going to their school. The distraught mother went to the management and pleaded her cause. They had not been violent; they were the victims of violence, but the landlord would not listen. Rules were rules. She had no choice but to comply.

They allowed her a few more days to get out, but the decision had been made. She ended up having to split her family up, each child staying with another person. She lost her job. She ended up in a shelter… and all the while, she was going to the hospital every day, spending hours at the bedside of her wounded son.

The Unknown.

Jesus says, “take no thought for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink, what you will wear..is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? (Matthew 5:25, NIV). Well, yes, life is more than food and clothes … but we need food and clothes and employment … and hope … in order to live life. The Unknown does not care about our needs. The Unknown exists, period. It will be with us for as long as we live. It almost feels that it is the job of the Unknown to challenge all that we know.

The Unknown does not always bring us bad news; it brings us surprises of unexpected joy as well. Sometimes, the Unknown brings the very light we need in the time of darkness. Sometimes a phone call, a card, an answer to a question we stopped wrestling with a long time ago, comes to us out of seemingly nowhere.

It seems that the Unknown does not exist to torment us, but to make life happen. In our dealing with the Unknown, whether it brings us good news or bad news, we learn who we are. Do we really love and trust God? How we deal with the Unknown lets us know the depth of our trust of God. In the darkest moments of our lives, brought to us by the Unknown, do we turn away from God and thus walk into a space where we have pushed God aside and away from us, even as the Unknown stands in that space, waiting?

Perhaps a good thing we can and should do at all times is to thank God for the present and for the presence of things we take for granted. I am not talking about material things. I am talking about the breaths we all just took, or for the fact that we opened our eyes this morning and could see, and get out of our beds. Maybe in acknowledging the Presence of God, or in acknowledging the blessings all around us that are always there, we can strengthen our lives, our souls and our spirits for what the Unknown will dole out to us, whenever the Unknown chooses to do it.

Inhale the sweet aroma of certainty that is around you right now. Inhale that aroma and exhale to clear your spirit of anything that might help you enjoy and treasure that certainty. When we think of how the Unknown can and does snatch joy and comfort from us at a moment’s notice, it just seems … wise and right … to cherish the certainty that brings us comfort and honor it as the gift that it is.

Amen and amen.

[Photo: Charles J. Sharp, Creative Commons]