Wanting certainty but finding adventure


For many years of my personal life and professional ministries I have been wanting certainty. I have prayed for certainty. I have joined others in praying for what I want, for how things “should” go, according to Me. And especially when facing an uncertain future, I have prayed for God to show me where to go or what to do.

One of the weird, though human, twists of such praying was that I was usually asking God to reveal the right path among the few paths which I could see. Rarely did I have a clue of the million other possibilities which were really in my possible future. And when God did seem to respond directly to my pleas, the response often had nothing to do with what I was asking.

For example, when I was praying for direction about where I might serve in 1992, as I was completing my PhD in counseling, the clear message that came to me was that I was “called to a life of prayer for the world.” Everything in me responded with a giant “WHAT?!” I cried. My ego was shattered. I let God know that was in no way what I meant. And yet I somehow knew with certainty that God was guiding me in that message. I was wanting certainty but finding adventure.

A year after our region was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, I was again praying for direction. I was sensing the need to decrease my counseling practice and focus on the work of spiritual formation. I actually believed I might need to move far away from our still-destroyed area, shortly after we had finally finished repairing our flooded home across the lake from New Orleans. What emerged was in the opposite direction, an opportunity to serve in the heart of New Orleans. As crazy as it seemed to go serve in the area that was in even worse shape than our suburban home, I felt led to say “Yes.” I had no idea how that new ministry would look. Again I was wanting certainty but finding adventure.

Wanting certainty seems to be part of our human nature. We are so very vulnerable to the changing tides of this life, and we so want to stop change and keep things the same. Or if we are open to change, we want to control the change. The idea of controlling life is downright laughable, and yet we chase control with all our might. I know you have been there as often as I have. Maybe we are all there right now.

So it is no wonder that the practice of surrender is at the heart of living a spiritual path, and yet one of the hardest practices for us humans. Facing the unknown is scary, so we try to control life, even though every single moment of this life is completely unknown. This is why the statement of Roberto Assagioli, founder of psychosynthesis, is hitting me square in the face this week: “There is no certainty. There is only adventure. Even stars explode.”*

So I am out here flapping in the wind with the rest of you today, facing an unknown future, feeling the anxiety of not knowing what life will bring next, and wanting certainty when there is none. If God is not too busy on a Saturday morning, I would love God’s help in transforming my longing for certainty into finding an adventure. God seems to specialize in the art of offering adventure throughout the whole universe, so: May God guide this day, in God’s own way, for all of us who are wanting certainty but finding adventure. Amen.

*(See Rachel Naomi Remen, My Grandfather’s Blessings, pp. 168-69 for her story with this quote).


About soulcare4u

I am the author of Monks in the World: Seeking God in a Frantic World, published by Wipf & Stock and available through Amazon.com; and of a blog on Wordpress.com, "A Contemplative Path." I serve as the founding spiritual director of The School for Contemplative Living (www.thescl.net), adjunct faculty of Loyola University, and as a pastoral counselor and spiritual director in private practice.
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3 Responses to Wanting certainty but finding adventure

  1. Suzanne Gould says:

    Really good one William. It’s so difficult not to crave certainty, but I guess it could be like removing that heavy overcoat to let go of it and just be grateful for the moment and our blessings. Seems like a constant inner battle. Xo

  2. William says:

    I agree that this stuff is lifelong work/practice, at least for us normal humans.

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