Part 1: Hope Studded Uncertainty
I first coined this three-word term one evening, in either September or October of 2015, out of frustration.
I’d been asked the question “What are you going to be doing?” a lot that day — and the days before this — in regards to my future, and I was tired of saying “I don’t know.” I didn’t, but that wasn’t the point — the point was the look on their faces, the half-nod they would give that screamed of doubt, and the way they all said a variation of “That’s alright; you’ll figure it out.”
They offered words of comfort, and I remember thinking Did I say not knowing was bad? I hadn’t. I hadn’t once mentioned that me not knowing was a problem, but I always accept their condolences with a smile, a nod, and a half-hearted ‘thank you’.
I don’t know when it began to irk me; all I know is that one moment I couldn’t care less and the next I was dissatisfied with my answer, knowing I could give them more — an explanation to why it was alright, and that no, I didn’t need to figure it out in order to be alright. So I sat down and, on my phone, typed out what I would say to anyone who asked me the question if I didn’t have restraint.
This was the result:
I fear the unknown.
I fear looking at my future and seeing nothing. I fear not knowing what lies ahead. What will I do? What can I do? I don’t know. I also fear those words, because it means ambiguity — unclear meaning, direction, purpose.
But as much as I fear that, I fear certainty more. I don’t like plans. I don’t like having things laid out neatly. Go to University. Study. Get a job. Work. Earn money. Meet a guy. Get married. Have kids. Have grandkids. Die.
It’s constricting — it’s like a prison of my own making, four walls blocking me in when there’s a whole universe of possibilities out there.
I like not knowing. I like uncertainty. I like looking at my future and seeing empty spaces, a void, a canvas, a blank paper on which God can work. He will write my story, word by word, line by line, chapter by chapter, until its completion. He is the Author; He has the plan and the outline of this story — my story.
I know not the full extent of my Lord, the One Whom I serve, but I know this: He is good. He is not simply a good person or being — He is ‘Good’. He will never fail and He will never leave, and in Him I can trust.
Do I still fear what I can’t see? Of course. I am human. I want to know so many things; I don’t know even more, but I do know God.
So instead of looking forward at the unknown, I choose to look up. I close my eyes and open my heart and see that I am not headed for destruction — I am stepping into hope studded uncertainty, and I am at peace.
I left it sitting in my phone notes for a while after, and continued to tell people that I didn’t know. The proper answer — the answer above — I had discovered, wasn’t for them; it was for me. That was where the phrase was first born, a throwaway line in a speech I would never give. It has always been my favourite piece of non-fiction, not that I do many of those, and I find myself returning to it as often as I find myself falling into the rabbit hole of Thinking About My Future (which, unfortunately, is more common than I’d like to admit).
It wouldn’t be until months later (I am not sure how many, exactly) that I realised the true potential behind the words. It was around this time that I decided ‘Hope studded uncertainty’ was my life’s subtitle (the title is and always will be a mystery. It’s not, after all, my book; it’s God’s) and maxim.
Let me try and explain it as best I can.
“And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:5
“For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?” Romans 8:24
Where is my hope? In Jesus. In the finished work of the cross. In the fact that I am here for but a moment; that this is not my home, and He has something waiting for me that’s better than anything and everything the universe could give me.
to be scattered (at intervals) over the expanse or surface of
I could have used the word ‘scattered’ (or sprinkled, or dotted, or strewn, or a dozen other words) in place of ‘studded’, but I didn’t. Words, I think, have a power of their own in the way they sound. Some words sound pleasant; others, harsh. Stud is one that gives the impression of pain, since studs are also usually pointed and sharp.
In this case, what is found throughout the uncertainty (the hope) isn’t merely scattered throughout — it pierced through the uncertainty, sometimes through painful means. Hope is, also, in itself, sometimes painful; it hurts to keep hoping despite all odds.
It is no big secret that I’m uncertain about so many things, as are everyone else. “I don’t know” is a common enough phrase that is uttered by everybody, without fail, at least once a day; anyone who claims otherwise is either lying, or doesn’t get asked enough questions.
My life — my future — is uncertain. The things I don’t know far outweigh the things I do know.
Taken together, the meaning is clear; while my life may be a series of
unfortunate events uncertainties, there is hope throughout — given by God, for God — that, as much as I sometimes wish it didn’t, comes with its own set of hurts and challenges.
Part 2: The Subtitle
Neil Gaiman has been my favourite author for a couple of years now, since I discovered The Ocean at the End of the Lane. This particular quote — A life, which is, like any other, unlike any other — comes from a short story in the middle of American Gods.
(American Gods is, while a long and proper novel, lined with about 6 short stories that seemingly don’t have much to do with the rest of the plot, but drive it nevertheless. This quote comes from a short story about siblings sold as slaves, the opening of which was an 850ish-word musing about stories, suffering, and life.)
To quote directly:
Lives are snowflakes — unique in detail, forming patterns we have seen before, but as like one another as peas in a pod (and have you ever looked at peas in a pod? I mean, really looked at them? There’s not a chance you’d mistake one for another, after a minute’s close inspection.)
~American Gods (Neil Gaiman)
It was, however, the line a few paragraphs later that really struck me, and has stayed with me since I first read it.
“A life, which is, like any other, unlike any other.”
What does it mean?
More importantly, what does it mean as a Christian?
Life is, intrinsically, unique. Nobody experiences the same thing the same way. (“You’ll not get any two people to remember anything the same, whether they were there or not,” to quote from The Ocean at the End of the Lane.) Even if the same thing happens, how each person reacts and perceives it will always be different. That means each life is also different.
But life is also the same as everyone else — we all live, learn, grow, make mistakes, love, lose, gain, and, and the end of it all, die.
God has fashioned each one of us in His image. Me, you, the stranger on the street… Everyone and anyone. My life is unique; I experience things in a unique manner. However, the struggles I face are the same as some of the struggles others face; it is merely the way I react to and think about them that are different.
My journey, my thoughts, my experiences, can be used, therefore, to encourage and teach others. To show them ‘this helped me; maybe it can help you‘, or ‘I wouldn’t recommend trying this; it’s not Biblical‘, or perhaps even ‘hey, I’ve been through this struggle and I promise you that God is there’.
And, similarly, I can learn from you; hear your thoughts and your opinions on all of it.
A life, which is, like any other, unlike any other.
Part 3: This Blog
I decided I was going to write a blog a long time ago. I never got around to it, mostly because I could never come up with a catchy enough title or site name that I liked. I settled on Hope Studded Uncertainty a while later. I procrastinated, because I’ve got ADHD, and it’s what I do. (In part, I also procrastinated because I knew that I wouldn’t be a consistent blogger, and I can’t stick to one topic to save my life.)
Last night, I decided fudge it all, I’m gonna do it. Why? I don’t know (refer above; my life is a series of uncertainties). For nobody. For me. For those reading. For God.
I’ll figure it out, eventually.
What’s going to be in this blog? I don’t know. Anything. Everything. Rants, stories, recounts, thoughts, opinions… Whatever I feel like, whenever I feel like.
I guess we’ll find out together.