John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.”
And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and remain on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
John the Baptist keeps repeating the words, “I myself did not know him.”
What do I do when I don’t know something or someone? How do I behave? I usually hang back, seeking confirmation and reassurance that whomever, or whatever, I don’t know is actually safe and okay and will work out. If something is unknown, then I generally don’t trust it. This holds true for everything from people asking me for change on the street to friends recommending movies and books to trying new things to taking risks at work to pursuing new friendships and relationships to discerning major life decisions.
Basically, I don’t trust easily, so I hold back. I dislike uncertainty. I don’t want to get hurt or embarrassed, be taken advantage of or, worse, be wrong.
And here is John, giving and living his whole life on a path that is entirely made up of uncertainty. In fact, there’s so much uncertainty, can you even really call it a path? “Path” connotes some kind of solidity and direction.
Well, I guess maybe I can’t tell if it’s a path or not (I won’t speak for John), but… God can. God can see all the way to the end, where the path is leading, even when we can’t.
God asked John to prepare that path, to tell us to make it straight. Maybe it’s not completely true that John was living in a cloud of uncertainty, because he did have a foundation of trust – also known as faith.
I read somewhere that faith is belief without knowing. It’s pure belief, and it can’t exist if we know fully, if we have certainty. Faith and trust are the flipside of uncertainty. Most of the time, we really don’t know what’s going to happen – we do have to go on faith alone, just as John waited for the Messiah, trusting that God would give him a sign. I bet John was prepared to spend the rest of his life baptizing and preaching if need be.
I suspect God-given signs are rare, though. I’m always looking for them, putting God to the test – “God, if you want me to do this, please give me a sign” – and it’s hard to accept the reality that I just may never know. I may never know if I’m making the right choice. I may never know if I’ll ever meet someone or if I’m supposed to be alone for the rest of my life. I may never know if I picked the right career path. I don’t know what my end will be. All that uncertainty, all that lack of control, and the emotional stuff that comes with it, is torturous.
But…actually, I do know. The end for us all, if we choose it, if we live and grow and strive towards it, is salvation. That is the gift. That is the reason to rest in the unknowing, to trust absolutely, to believe blindly, to have faith – because at the end, God gives us love. God loves us already. He sent His Son to make that clear. Why worry, if we know that Love has come down, Love is waiting? Well, we’re humans, and humans are worrywarts (this one especially). God doesn’t mind. God is waiting for us all the same – the home at the end of every path.
Jesus, You are here. Let us have the faith, grace, and perseverance of John the Baptist, that we may wander in the desert of uncertainty and trust that You will come and find us, your impatient and doubting sheep, in your good time. Amen!