How to Survive Uncertainty (of this virus & everything else): Chapter 4 [Otherwise Known as “How to Hold Space for the Unknown”]

In that sing-song tinny little voice of hers,  she must holler it at me more than a dozen blasted (and wildly beautiful) times a day:

“Wait up, Mom! Moooom — Wait up! Wait up!”

Her spindly twig legs jump up to sing across the kitchen after me, fly through the garden’s raised boxes after me,  dashes across the back lawn and through the ash grove after me to get to the chicken coop and our handful of clucking hens, out to the garden boxes.

And I waited up and I scooped her up and and this is how we move through strange days like these, this is how we move through these mid-pandemic days, this is how we manage the unknowns that are part of the human condition:

Hold space.

Hold space for the unknown that you know is coming.

Hold space for ways that are higher than yours, the ways of the One who never stops holding you.

When she and I reached the raised garden boxes out by the chicken coop, I set her down, and I kneel down beside her and pull out of my worn apron pocket these rattling packets of seeds, beans and sunflowers and hollyhocks and lettuce, and her and I, in early May, we scratch holes in the earth.

I watch her hair blowing with however the wind blows. There is something exquisitely beautiful about surrender.

Inside her little chest, there is only half of a heart.

Inside her 17-year-old brother who was out planting beans in long stretches of our farm fields in early May, there is a dead pancreas that will never work again.

She’s on blood thinners to avoid any fatal blood clots; we prick her finger every few weeks to test her blood’s INR. Three times a day, our alarms go off that she needs another dose of liquid beta blocker to slow her heart rate down.

Her older brother’s on insulin to avoid dying; he pricks his finger every time he eats or pricks himself with a continuous glucose monitor that he has to wear for a week or so at a time to test his blood’s sugar and avert hypoglycaemic comas or death. Throughout the night, monitors and alarms that jolt us awake us as his blood sugars plummet down and he needs to be shaken awake to immediately swallow down juice to avoid — not waking up in the morning.

She will need a heart transplant someday. He needs to avoid blood sugars destroying his organs every day.

Ours is a fragile world.

Who knows who will see the next sunrise, the next birthday? Who knows what tomorrow holds? Who knows if we will all finally be through these strange days by this fall, by next winter?  This is what I know:

Who knows what the future holds except that you will be held even then.

Let go of holding space for any expectations.

Expectation-free living frees you.

When you’re holding on to expectations you can’t hold space for your God to hold you.

“We just drop these little seeds down into these dark holes?” She’d looked up at me, asked me in early May.

“Uh huh — just like this…” and I gently dropped seeds into the earth.

When a seed is buried in dirt, does it wonder how it will breathe, how it will survive, how it live through the unknown of living in the dark?

Does it know even in the dark of the unknown,  there is hidden possibility if it will surrender to what it is? Does it know that even here, buried in all kinds of unknown, where it feels fragile and alone, if it will surrender, it can explode with growth?

Does a seed at all know its own possibility?

But then again, you have to ask yourself: Do you know you have unbelievable potential, especially here and now? Do you know how you hold within you unbelievable possibilities of becoming more, especially in this season?

Do you have any idea how you can grow when you hold your hand open to the sky and say, “All I care about is surrendering to the tender mysteries of God.”

No one has any real idea about the future in a pandemic.

No one can predict how long or when this will end, no one can fully predict long term effects of this virus, physically,  economically, socially, and no one can predict with any certain accuracy what a post-pandemic world will look like.

This year won’t meet our expectations. Our dreams, our hopes, our plans, our health, our relationships, ourselves — will not meet our expectations.

But: Even when our expectations aren’t met — we can still meet God. Meeting God in this moment is enough.

And what is predictable right now is the way of seeds. The way of roots and earth and budding and blooming and yielding and becoming.

In the unpredictable times of a mid-pandemic world, what is predictable is that there always seasons, there is always the hope of growth. And as long as the earth endures, we will endure, knowing that seasons come and seasons pass and if we yield, this season can yield.

Whatever we are passing through, it will come to pass. Plant seeds and believe.

“I can do it, Mama, I can do it too. “ She’d leaned over the dirt with her handful of hope.

Those little fingers? I have held them and traced those little lips, in cardiac ICUs through a tangle of tubes and lines and begged God for one more day. This girl unearthed in me time’s utter fragility.

How long do we all have, how long till we all get through this — how long, how long, how long?  Our brains beg for timelines because maybe we’re all addicted to controlling storylines. We think if we can find the certainty of the plot line, then we think we can certainly find a way to control it.

We think if we knew with certainty the story, we’d certainly find out a way to write the story better. We think if we kinda knew what was coming, we could become our own kind of gods — better than God.

Maybe: The reason we don’t get any crystal balls is to shatter any allusion of control.

Maybe: The reason we don’t get any crystal balls is to shatter any allusion of being God.

This is the one great truth: The only thing that is certain is uncertainty — and the certainty of God.

A pandemic earnestly compels us to embrace both. This is not a bad thing. All of life is about learning to embrace both.

When a small girl had finished her deliberate dropping of small seeds into dirt, her and I gently buried them all in the dark, seeds surrendered to the unknown. Accept the unknown — because it’s helping you know how to live.

That’s the thing: The thing that you wish would go away, it’s showing you a better way to live.

It’s living with unknowns that lets you know what matters.

If you hold space for uncertainty, you simultaneously realize what you’re holding right now is a gift.

In early May, she and I held and buried seeds, and then held the watering hose over tender plants through June, so come July, we could hold baskets full of beans. And everyday we keep holding space for the unknown. Who will survive this pandemic and who will lose people they desperately love? How will we simultaneously keep our sanity, keep our kids safe, keep our family afloat?  How will we learn to hold space for grief and joy, for our perspective and for someone else’s?

In this holding space for all the unknown —— there is also this growing awareness that this moment holds possibility.

As I pick another basket of beans and a handful of sunflowers in late July that one small girl and I planted from fragile seeds in early May, I believe it like a growing within:

Hold on. 

Hold space for uncertainty — and trust all this uncertainty holds possibility.

Here holds the possibility that you can find what really matters. Here you can grow love deeper with people you will someday lose. Here may bring you to your knees, but don’t hate what helps you pray more.

Here in the unknowns there is this exquisite gift of knowing more of God.

Here can be a tender surrender. This is how you win peace.

“Mama?” She pats my leg in the garden in July. “See the sunflowers? Why do they all look like that?”

Do I tell her that’s what we call can grow into, in a season of unknown? That especially here we can turn and hold our faces to all the Light?

What I do is kneel and tell her simply, “Let’s hold our faces like that too.”

And I scoop her up and we hardly wait at all till we feel the real warming:

No matter what unknown we face — we face the known love of God.

 

Related:
How to Survive This Virus
Chapter 1: This is not a drill. The World’s on Fire. We practiced our faith for days like these.

How to Survive This Virus
Chapter 2: Losses Come in Waves: How to Find The Way Through & The Complete Passage Deal

3 Ways to be Safe in a Pandemic Reopening without Losing Your Mind: How to Survive this Virus: Chapter 3

In Crazy Times, Why Your Quiet Time isn’t Working: 5 Key Tools to Count on for an Encounter with God (Warning: Only Use these Best Resources if You Want Dramatic Change)


In all these uncertain days, you find yourself at a crossroads every day — and what you need to know is the way to abundance.

How do you find the way through uncertainty that lets you find certain peace, a way to surrender to what is,?

How can you afford to take any other way, especially in days like these?

The Way of Abundance is a gorgeous movement of 60 steps, 60 days, from heart-weary unknowns to Christ-focused abundance. No matter what happens, you can be in a different place this fall — an abundantly hopeful, peaceful place. 

In a season of so much loss, and missing, don’t miss out on the gift of what can still be — and you can still become.