Knowing When You Don't Know
There are two major themes in John 9. The first is, of course, the idea of sight and blindness. The man born blind can now see; the Pharisees claim to see but are really blind. Jesus sums up his mission in v. 39 by saying, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” Two verses later he says, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains” (v. 41).
Those are hard words and worthy of our consideration (which we did a bit in yesterday’s post). But there is another theme, and it is the one I want to think about today. The theme is: “I don’t know.”
That phrase appears three times in John 9. In verse 12, the Pharisees want to know where the man who healed the blind man went. The blind man’s response: “I don’t know.”
Later, the Pharisees question the blind man’s parents and want to know how it is that he can suddenly see. Their response: “We don’t know” (v. 21).
Eventually, the Pharisees try to discredit Jesus to the man he has healed by saying, “We know this man is a sinner.” The blind man’s response again: “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” (v. 25).
Sometimes it’s important for us to remember that we’re not called to be scholars and systematic theologians (not that there’s anything wrong with scholars and/or systematic theologians). We’re not called to have all the answers and know all the finer points of Christian Doctrine. We’re simply called to be witnesses — people who share with others what God has done and is doing in our lives.
I have a reputation for knowing lots of information about God. I can walk a person through the 11 major divisions of Systematic Theology. I can break down philosophical and theological arguments from Augustine to Freud. I’m conversant in Lewis and Luther and Schaeffer and McLaren.
But there’s so much I don’t know. Recently, I caught myself beginning every single prayer with that phrase, “Dear God, I don’t know….”
I don’t know what I’m supposed to do next.
I don't know how to parent three little girls.
I don’t know how to respond to people.
I don’t know what’s going on in the world, in the church, in my own heart sometimes.
What is God up to? How is God going to deliver this time? When will things become clear again?
I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.
That’s disconcerting sometimes. I’m the kind of guy who likes to know. Not knowing keeps me awake at nights. Not knowing kills my appetite and gives me the heebie-jeebies.
I’m trying to learn how to rest in not knowing — to take comfort in the fact that the One I pursue and am pursued by knows. And when everything around me seems confusing or unclear, I can at least say this: “One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”