What’s next? Much anxiety stems from what we don’t know. Fearing uncertainty, we often grasp what we know and have. Nicodemus, a religious leader, came to Jesus sounding confident. “We know who you are.” We know what is possible and impossible. By what you’re doing, “you must be a teacher from God.” Jesus replied, “No one can see the kingdom without being born from above.” How is that possible? Nicodemus asked. “Can one enter the womb again?” Jesus said, “One must be born of water and spirit.” How is that possible? Nicodemus came thinking he knew what’s possible and what’s true. Nicodemus came at night, a sign that he’s in the dark, that he cannot see, and does not know.
We, too, are often in the dark, trapped, thinking we can see. We get trapped by the certainty that someone will act a particular way. We assume from experience and claim our knowledge. Perhaps you’re like me finding yourself grasping with assumptions, holding so tight that you cannot hear another possibility about that person, or about yourself, or about God. Out of anxiety we construct containers of limiting expectations. We grasp at knowing Jesus and like Thomas we want to see. We want evidence and think we know what we must have.
Perhaps “born from above” is Jesus’ invitation to “not knowing,” to not assuming, to an openness to discover more, or to a childlike playful perspective.[i] In play, we’re open to new ideas, and there are endless possibilities. What might happen? How does this work? Let’s try. To play is to act with freedom and inhibition, unconcerned. Playfulness goes beyond knowledge, assumptions, and experience.
A playful perspective honors mystery. There is so much we do not know, and that’s ok. There is always more than we can know about the other. There is more than we will know about ourselves. There is always more, so much more about God than what we know now. As we Brothers say in our Rule of Life[ii]: “The gift of silence we seek to cherish is chiefly the silence of adoring love for the mystery of God which words cannot express. … In this silence we learn to revere ourselves … and to honor the mystery present” in every human being.
We cannot fully grasp God or each other. Playfully pray with God who is mystery and playfully live with one another. Our Risen Lord keeps coming in surprising and unexpected ways along the road, on the beach, on the water, in the ordinary where you are now.
What are you anxious about today? What are you grasping? How might you be trapped clinging to assumptions about another, about yourself, or about God? To what are you holding on so tight that you may not be able to hear well? As one beloved child to another: What else might God be doing? Let’s playfully take a different look. Where is hope here? Look around. Look upside down. Let go. Lie down in silence. Listen. Facilitate creativity by anticipating more. Behold mystery with courageous curiosity. What’s next?
[i] Jean Vanier (2004) Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John. New York: Paulist Press, p75.
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