Safe Certainty (or Certain Safety)
We are limited in how much we’re able to control the circumstance of our lives. We can construct reasonably safe containers but are awfully vulnerable to outside circumstance. Where do we go?
Relying on our own strength has its limitations. We want so much to be strong and create a safe space for those we care about. But we just can’t, not all the time.
To assist us we rely on family, communities, and institutions to give some comforting direction and reliable boundaries. However, this has its limitations too. And it is disappointing (and often frustrating) because we want to feel protected. We want so much to find a dependable (and hopefully infallible) source of emotional and spiritual support. But we just can’t, not all the time.
No matter how hard we try we cannot create an entirely safe and controllable space for ourselves, or those we love or are called to care for.
I will always remember the parishioner who shared her story of being attracted to (and later married) a very assured and devout man of principle. She saddled up to his sincere devotion and gladly accepted his church’s literal convictions about God. Over time, and after a few children, she increasingly felt depleted, lost, and frustrated. She painfully came to realize that what was once a safe and sensible way of life was becoming undeniably insensitive and oppressive. But by that time she was entangled in circumstance and programmed by punitive theology, as for example, if she strayed from the “righteous path” she risked being sent to Hell when she died.
The search for certainties and the choices we make (if we choose to choose) shape our dependencies and chart the course of our lives. Problems occur when we are unable to see others or ourselves as a work in progress and we hold too stubbornly or far too passively to what we hope is the answer.
Communities or institutions that promise certainty, and impose such constructs, often fail to make room for change and progressive thought. They breed a “lust for certainty” (often accompanied by a black and white politic) that can hinder a healthy sense of self. And, in this way, as for the parishioner mentioned above, ripen to rotten, the peace of mind they proposed to cultivate.
Bottom line…safe certainty is elusive. Our vulnerabilities are boundless and, as I see it, safety can only be found in what we make of this fact.
A wizened crop farmer once said to me (during a exceptionally wet spring) “I’m not going to fret that now. I’ll take it one day at a time. It always seems to work out in the end…somehow.” And, as matter of interest, it did. That particular growing season was extended by an unusually long and sunny fall.
Safe certainty (or certain safety) is nothing more (or less) then a state of mind that has accounted for the many tumultuous and unpredictable possibilities orbiting our personal and familial worlds.
It is my personal bias that vital to any sense of safe certainty is a spirituality that affirms one as an expression of the greater whole. Albert Shweitzer said, “I am life that wills to live in the midst of life that wills to live.”
We are not separate from one another or the world that we share. As we deepen in our appreciation of this, we naturally adopt a compassionate lifestyle that as one post modern thinker stated, “surrenders to what is, lets go of what was, and has faith in what will be”.