Listenings: “Not Knowing”

The emptying/filling experience we looked at last week is not an easy thing for us, in a time when mastering and controlling are the usual marks of expertise.

Nouwen addresses this paradox in an excellent way (pp. 4-5), showing that it once we realize we are exploring Mystery when we are exploring God, then it quickly follows that we will never really “know God” in any complete sense.

In fact, Nouwen notes, the more we think we actually do “know” God, the more in danger we are of confusing our own notions of reality with Reality itself.

There is deep paradox here, and we will never understand why the Bible calls us to detachment before attachment—dying before rising—and emptying before filling.  But this is the way of the soul.  It is what Jesus meant when he said that “the poor in spirit” are those who live in the Kingdom.

Perhaps the way to look at it is in terms of where place the emphasis.  It is not that we say, “I do not know,” because obviously, there are many things that we do know.  But it is always necessary to say, “I do not know,” as the very means of keeping humility at the heart of our spiritual formation and openness at the very core of our walk with God.

About jstevenharper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 31 books.
This entry was posted in Listenings. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Listenings: “Not Knowing”

  1. Your last line: “But it is always necessary to say, “I do not know,” as the very means of keeping humility at the heart of our spiritual formation and openness at the very core of our walk with God.”

    This is key for me as I continue the journey. Learning to say “I do not know” was freeing in the classroom when I taught and is freeing as I continue to learn and grow. No matter what I learn, there will always be more that I truly do NOT know. Being open and transformed is my desire.

    Thanks for the post.

    debra

  2. Robert Fulton says:

    This reminds me of Andrew Murray’s comment ” Humilty is the beauty of holiness.”.

Comments are closed.