For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9
I’m no fan of Donald Rumsfeld but I’ve appreciated his famous quote, “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”
Makes sense, yes? Whether you are a good reader and researcher or prefer to go with your gut on most things, most people operate from the belief you can ferret out those unknown unknowns and do what is needed for success, whatever that definition might be. Your unknown unknown might be the need to worry about and work the stock market to have a sure retirement, or to watch your children’s homework, their selection of friends, their extracurricular choices, and other needs to try to ensure they will grow up to be safe/happy/educated/successful. You might find death is your most fear-inducing unknown unknown and so you work out daily and maintain a healthy diet in order to escape cancer or heart disease and guarantee a long life. And yet, no matter how much we read, study, source, vet, or try to control through better knowledge and actions, etc., we will meet our known unknowns and unknown unknowns and we will not understand them nor will we necessarily achieve dominion over them. God is speaking through the scripture of Isaiah to tell us the known unknowns and unknown unknowns will always exist and remain out our intellectual reach but we are to understand that he holds them and they work to his good end. These unknowns aren’t random events and they aren’t without a greater scheme. We may be made in God’s image but at a low level of his image and no amount of human effort in studying, researching, or overthinking will shoot us through the mystery barrier to know his knowns. Not in this life. Isaiah 55:9 as stated in my Aunt Lorraine’s The Living Bible, Paraphrased says, “This plan of mine is not what you would work out, neither are my thoughts the same as yours.” We simply don’t have the capacity to work it out at God’s level. Human frailties (e.g., pride, fear, shame, laziness, indifference, selfishness, etc.) keep us from this capability. It’s the brokenness we carry and can’t self-fix.
The other side of Isaiah 55:9 tells us a portion of his knowns, however, are available to us through Christ and the Scripture and through the actions and sharing of our faith community. Tap into God’s voice through Scripture, tap into the Gospels to read of Christ’s humanity and understanding of our struggles and you can gain access to God’s thoughts and his promises of steadfastness, mercy, grace, and forgiveness. God deliberately sent Jesus—and Jesus deliberately undertook human form—to provide the knowns we need and to walk beside us. As we encounter struggles and seemingly disastrous experiences in our lives and those of our loved ones, friends, community, and world, we need to remember there will be much we are not privy to understand but what is most important to know has been given to us in Word, sacrament, and relationships.
Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark; professionals built the Titanic. – Anonymous
Be an amateur. Tap in and listen for the real architect’s instructions.
Prayer: Dear Father, please help me today to be mindful I am a created creature lovingly designed in your image. Help me to understand that my mind, my thoughts, and my plans—no matter how seemingly well and bright intentioned—are not your thoughts and plans. You reign above me and for me. Help me to discern your thoughts and purposes through Scripture and the life and words of Jesus and all the saints. Amen.