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Facing the unknown

| Thursday, February 5, 2015

I don’t know how many people remember their first crush, but I remember mine like it was yesterday. Her name was Natalie and I liked her for all of my eighth-grade year.

Maybe I’m just odd, but crushes, for me, have been some of the most confusing and difficult times in my life. Let me explain, using Natalie as an example.

I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that, on one hand, the “crush” gave me superpowers. I had enormous amounts of energy when I woke up in the morning to go to school.  Of course, I was pumped not for classes, but for the opportunity to see Natalie. This excitement for school, in any sense, was probably no short of a miracle for an eighth-grade boy.

Also, my body developed an amazing sense of radar location and peripheral vision. Once Natalie had entered a room, there was no losing her. Needless to say, I didn’t want to appear creepy, so I spent a lot of time looking out of the corners of my eyes, mostly to see if I would ever have a chance to talk with her.

Further, I developed a great ability to hold many strands of information in my head, all at the same time. Mostly, however, this information took the form of questions. “Is now a good time to talk to her? Should I say hello? Will she think I’m silly? Do I look cool enough? Should I take off my glasses?” I think it was during this time that I realized the prodigious speeds at which the human mind can move.

But these questions also give great insight into why that crush was such a struggle for me. When I led with my heart, anything was possible. Unfortunately, my head gave me no such reinforcement.

These questions, unfortunately, tilled the soil for doubt. Around Natalie, the gift of speech, a usually faithful friend, proved to be unreliable. Somehow, when I needed coherent sentences most, they always seemed to find better things to do.

To top it all off, it was hard to concentrate. In Natalie’s presence, my heart would be thumping so loudly that there was barely any space to hear myself think, much less string words together.

My head and heart always seemed to be in a perpetual war. During my “crush,” my head led me away from relationships. I could not bear the thought that Natalie might say “no” to me or possibly reject my advances.

Although I didn’t know it then, my crush was giving me my first taste of what it was like to, in a small sense, face the unknown.

We fear those things we do not know. While I certainly feared rejection, I think it was the possibility of rejection that messed with my head and fueled my angst. We’re told that thinking ahead and preparing will help us to face the future, but sometimes that’s just not quite possible, especially with matters of feeling and emotion.

Take much more serious cases, and things get especially difficult. Two people I know were recently diagnosed with cancer. These diagnoses have brought about many emotions: shock, confusion, sadness and anger. It has been tough, especially in light of the treatments and questions that lie ahead. Cancer brings with it the uncertainty of possibilities that we fear most.

But, although it may be difficult to see, it is the heart that must remind us of another path: the path shown to us through the promise of faith.

Casey Sharp wrote: “[Christ] totally and completely reconciles Himself to everything He created and allowed, and reconciles Himself in the most agonizing way imaginable because only that would do. …[We] can say we affirm a God who relates to all unjust suffering in the most intimate way possible.”

In the faith of Christ, we’re given a certainty that can light even the darkest of unknown paths. That is to say, it’s the certainty that God not only knows what we’re going through, but offers us himself, fully and completely, as a stabilizing force. Every Eucharist is a reminder not only of Christ’s sacrifice, but of his real presence with us. It is the best reminder we have that resurrection triumphs over death and that life will, in some form or another, always win.

This, of course, cannot completely take away our uncertainty. Faith does not always promise an answer that alleviates all of our ills.

But our faith is a guarantee of a relationship with a God who promises we will never be rejected or abandoned. No matter our sin, or our illness, no matter what evil may befall us, we never truly walk alone.

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