My favorite thing about GC2012 is also the scariest: We don’t know what we are doing.
I don’t mean that in a bad way. This is inevitable in a time of massive change and reform. If you try something completely new, you can’t know for sure where it will take you. That’s true for guaranteed appointment, for restructure, for pensions, for the changing global nature of the church. We gather all of our data, make our projections and think through various outcomes, but in the end, we are flying blind.
This state of not-knowing is as unsettling as it is necessary. It’s what makes this General Conference seem so surreal.
On my regular blog I recently told this story about not knowing:
“When I was 12, I had a friend who could say only three words: “I don’t know.” Riding my bike home from school, I would stop by the nursing home to visit Mrs. Feemster. She was always in her room because a stroke had not only wrecked her speech but also left her bedfast. I would tell her about my day, and she would listen sympathetically to anything I wanted to say for as long as I wanted to say it; this is the great advantage of bedfast friends.
“Whatever I asked her, whatever I told her, she always replied, “I don’t know.” If I told her about the good things that had happened in my day, Mrs. Feemster would respond to me in a cheerful voice, “I don’t know.” When I told her about a bad day, Mrs. Feemster would still say “I don’t know,” but in a sad voice. And whether I said good things or bad things or nothing at all, she liked to pat my hand and watch my face with soft eyes. I counted her as a good friend
“After a few months, my brother told me that I was a fool if I believed Mrs. Feemster was my friend; Mrs. Feemster didn’t even know who I was. It was a blow. So I went to talk with Mrs. Feemster about it. I told her what my brother had said and asked, “Mrs. Feemster do you know who I am? Are we friends?” I expected her to say, “I don’t know.” But Mrs. Feemster looked at me and said nothing for a long time. Then she smiled and said very slowly, each word separated by the effort it took to get them out, “I … love . . . you . . . Beka.” I was so excited. “Really?” I asked. She patted my hand and smiled again, “I don’t know.”
“This is my life – as a mother, a wife, a professor … a Christian, [and a General Conference delegate]. My words are inadequate. I can’t get things right. I don’t know. I muddle along. And, then, every now and again, by God’s grace or an opening in my heart or some other strange circumstance, I stumble on the right answer, the truth, the fitting thing to say. The rest of the time, it’s just an everyday slog through my own ignorance.”
At General Conference 2012 we have found ourselves in the rich and unsettling state of not knowing. There is no quick and sure way out of this strange place. There is nothing left to do but to love as best we can and to trust in God through the not-knowing.