I’ve been thinking lately about the (seemingly) lack of absolute clarity/certainty when it comes to aspects of faith and ministry. And, I find it interesting that so many people really do seem to have a hard time embracing nuance, “the fuzzy middle”, uncertainty….the idea that many times there is no black and white but mostly shades of grey.
And I get it; especially when you look at scripture. God’s Word is full of declarative statements, warnings of the dangers of being lukewarm, proclamations against wishy-washiness, foundation-building instructions (rock vs sand, by the way) and on and on and on. It’s obvious that God is certainly a god of absolutes.
And here’s where things seem to get grey: When we mix our understanding of so much of scripture with the day to day experiences life and ministry hand us. To that we add our pride; or desire to always be “right” about an issue or to have a definitive answer. To this we add the (whether self-imposed or others-imposed…or both) expectation that “leaders” always know what’s best, can articulate it AND get others to buy into it. Then we mix in a little bit of outside influence through the books and blogs we read and various “thought leaders” we listen to. And finally (not really finally because I could go on and on….) we sprinkle in the expectations of parents, students, volunteers and peers to confidently proclaim truth and clarity to vast issues those under our care and leadership deal with.
In my experience, lots and lots of situations we face can easily be reconciled (or at least honestly evaluated) by the clarity and straightforwardness of God’s word. LOTS! Because so much of life is about black and white, right and wrong, God’s way vs. the world’s way.
And in my experience, lots and lots of situations require the willingness to live in the grey zone…the world of “both/and”, “neither/nor”, “sorta”, “maybe” and “gosh…I’m not quite sure.” Simply put: Life is often at least 49 shades of grey.
-Grey isn’t sexy.
-Grey isn’t provocative.
-Grey doesn’t build an audience on the book/blog/speaking circuit.
-Grey doesn’t build a following: “hey, follow me…I’m not sure about lots of stuff!”
-Grey doesn’t answer the questions so many people are hoping somebody will answer for them.
-Grey doesn’t give easy answers to issues.
-Grey doesn’t allow me to take side, therefore having a “camp” I belong to, and allies from whom to gain support.
-Grey doesn’t allow me to make a declarative statement, put the issue to rest and move on.
Life and ministry are easier in the world of black and white. Absolutes are fantastic…when they exist. But when they don’t, let’s avoid the temptation to be lazy thinkers and laborers. Let’s be willing to do the hard work of living, leading, loving and learning in the midst of uncertainty.
Want to think a little more about this? Here are some prompts:
- In what areas have you settled for a “black and white” answer that may actually require some “grey thinking”?
- In what areas have you settled for “grey” that may actually be a “black and white” issue?
- How comfortable are you NOT always having an absolute answer for your JH students?
- How might you help your JH students develop the ability to wrestle through, and be okay with, uncertainty?