"I don't know"

Originally Posted September 5

“I don’t know.”

I have been repeating this phrase a lot these days.

Friend: What will you be doing in Peru?

Me: I don’t know…something along the lines of teaching, social work, or ministry.

Friend: When do you leave?

Me: I don’t know…either early November or early December.

Friend: Where will you be living?

Me: I don’t know…in Andahuaylillas, but I don’t know specifically.

Friend: Will you have a pet llama?

Me: I don’t know…I hope so!

Friend: How can I mail things to you?

Me: I don’t know…when I have an address, I’ll let you know.

Friend: Do you know anything?

Me: Yep, I have a few facts about Andahuaylillas…but they’re disputed by the various guidebooks I’ve looked at.  One book says 800 people live there, and another says 4,000 people.  There are varying levels of llama populations.  Spanish and Quechua are spoken by people there, but to what extent I will need to learn Quechua I don’t know.

JVC likes the term “apostolic availability,” which is really just “I don’t know” veiled in a much more sophisticated churchy package.  But it’s something I have come to enjoy, see value in, and even poke fun at.  Learning to have the humility to accept that there are things I don’t know was an important life lesson.  I was in high school, and thought I knew a whole lot more than I actually did.  Not having an answer was frustrating, and many times I would try to make something up.  It usually sounded like it could be true, but those who knew me best could tell when I was winging it.  And I can still remember the day when Carly called me out for always trying to have an answer: “Damn-it Sam, why can’t you just say ‘I don’t know’?” she asked me.  It was a valid question, and one I had never been confronted with.

Not knowing can be uncomfortable.  We are programmed to accumulate information or knowledge.  Wikipedia, according to some, is more accurate than an encyclopedia.  Google is a verb.  We spend our lives trying to accumulate useful knowledge, and not knowing is something we’re not good at.  Over the past few months, the life lesson that Carly taught me has become increasingly important as I settle into the uncomfortable state of simply not knowing.  November (or December) will bring a huge life shift for me, but I have little that I can anticipate.  There are no 2nd year JVs living in Andahuaylillas, there are no FJVs from Andahuaylillas, and what information I can find on the town is disputed among the various sources I do have.  JVC doesn’t have much they can tell me about my job, or what our physical community will look like.

While existing in this state is a bit daunting, or scary, it is also a bit humbling.  I applied to JVC knowing that the program espouses the values that I seek to live.  JVC picked me because they saw something within me that would allow me to thrive in this environment, and hopefully I will live up to that.  So how do I live in the unknown?  I think that life in the post-O and pre-departure has to be approached with the humility to know that there are things larger than oneself at play.  I am not meant to know everything…everything about Andahuaylillas, everything about Peru, everything about JVC, everything about anything really.  The position of “all knowing entity” was filled long ago, and as I struggle to accept the fact that I will never be ‘all knowing,’ I have come to realize that God is much better at it than I could ever be.

So here’s to the unknown: may you be more comfortable each day knowing more about how little you actually know.