You do not need to know

It was pretty hard to see where we were going on this road at Crater Lake, Oregon, but it turned out to be a wonderful adventure. June (yes, June) 2000.

It was pretty hard to see where we were going on this road at Crater Lake, Oregon,
but it turned out to be a wonderful adventure. June (yes, June) 2000.

“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.”
Thomas Merton

When a frightening situation arises, my first impulse is to try to find out as much about it as I can.  For me, information has always brought a sense of empowerment, along with the comfort of reassurance and/or the chance to prepare myself to face the worst aspects of whatever is going on. I’m sure this tendency to seek power in knowledge has something to do with my lifelong fascination with libraries, which led to my seemingly inevitable path through library school.

With almost any trait, though, it’s best not to take it too far.  Since information is often ambiguous at best and contradictory at worst, an over-reliance on it can lead to what a friend of mine called “paralysis by analysis,” a common setback for me.  It might seem counter-intuitive, but the older I get, and the more experiences I have, the less I know.  Oddly, it comes as rather a relief.

No matter how carefully we plan, the road ahead is uncertain at best, for all of us.  Let’s remind each other that life can be an adventure if we choose to see it that way.  Regardless of what lies in store, it will be easier to bear if we surround ourselves with people who understand and practice courage, faith and hope.

One year ago today:

Security or opportunity?


  1. Susan

    Hi Julia,
    I so agree! We don’t need to know. There’s Someone else who knows, and can take care of it for us better than we can, anyway! Today’s post triggered me to thinking of a Newsboys song that has brought me through some uncertain times: It’s called “Lord” or “Lord (I Don’t Know).” You can find it on YouTube, and I think it’s a great song to have stuck in my head all day! Thank you for reminding me!
    There’s a chasm of difference between giving up and surrender.

    • Susan, thanks so much for the tip about that song – it was easy to find online. I had not heard it before, but I really like it. What a reassuring message. Energetic, too – a great addition to my “walking tunes.” 😀 And yes, giving up is more like abandoning hope…surrender is letting Another take the controls. A big difference. Thanks for being here!

  2. I learned to no longer try and find a solution to an anticipated problem; but, “to be still” and “trust” in the” present moment”. Thank you for the post today, it re-affirmed that I am heading in the right direction.

    • You’re welcome! I’m so glad you found the post helpful. When I’m writing these posts I never know whether anyone will connect with them or not, it all seems so inside my own head. This one in particular I wasn’t sure anyone would like. So I appreciate you letting me know that you found it reassuring! As humans we seem wired to want to control the future, but ultimately that’s mostly an illusion. The place we are most able to make a difference is always in the present moment, with the people and situations right in front of us.

  3. Loved that breathtaking shot! Should have sent it for some photo contest.
    Too much information is often confusing. When we were unsure of our father’s condition and treatment we moved from hospital to hospital seeking expert opinion. But often the opinions were so contradictory that we ended up more confused. Finally we had to take our own decision leaving everything to God and fate.

    • Bindu, that sounds so familiar! That’s pretty much the place I was at with Matt’s most recent heart surgery. Always before I was fairly obsessed with finding the “right” doctor, the “right” hospital, the ideal circumstances. But Jeff’s illness has forced us to let go of our attempts to control things. As one who is always looking for information, I often come to the point where all the contradictory opinions and sources make me bewildered and depressed. I finally am starting to learn when to say “enough” with all of the seeking of information. Or maybe I just don’t have the time anymore, and that too can be a blessing…

      I am happy you like the photo! I was afraid to use it, thinking people would find it too dull. But it brings back the stunning memory of that day in June where, within just a few miles of driving, we went from a warm sunny day to an amazingly frozen landscape. That was my first experience with a truly sudden change in climate due strictly to geography. An unforgettable experience to have in summertime!

  4. Janet Sawyer

    Julia, I needed this today. Drs. visits with CW have shown he now needs hip replacement surgery. Blessings,Janet

    • Oh, no! When do they plan to do it? Or does he want to go ahead with it? People talk of such things nowadays as if they are routine, but the whole idea is still a bit scary to me. As one who is having a lot of hip joint pain, I am doing everything I can to avoid getting to that point. How does CW feel about it? We will pray for him AND you!

  5. This resonates with me so much right now, it’s from the Lord. Courage, faith, hope. Yes! I’ve been absent from this wonderful community for several weeks due to various hurdles, but I had to come on right now and say that I am going to practice those 3 attributes in 10 minutes during a phone meeting that may change the course of this season of my life.

    • Wow, Jenelle, I don’t know if that phone call sounds exciting or ominous – exciting I hope! I totally identify with having to go AWOL from favorite online places – I had this illusion that I would be able to catch up while Matt was in the hospital – HA. Even after 4 previous open heart surgeries, I didn’t have any idea how INTENSE it was going to be. A good thing, too, that I didn’t know…as this post points out! I just said a quick prayer that whatever you are dealing with today will have a favorable outcome…and that you will be filled with faith, courage and hope! Thanks for being here today, you are welcome anytime and please don’t feel bad for being away whenever you need to. That’s something pretty much ALL of us can identify with, I think! ❤

      • Julia, thank you so very much! And the call began as ominous and then got really exciting! By the end I was like uh, that wasn’t what I was expecting or even thinking about. Leading into the talk, I wasn’t trippin about the possible outcomes. I didn’t need to play them out in my head because I didn’t need to know. But I needed to have faith, courage and hope. Things are still up in the air, but forward progress is in sight, yahoo! I’ll keep you posted… 🙂 I am sad about AWOL from my favorite online places, but there is time and a season… Right now I’m living in a hectic one, but I have peace like a river so I am a-ok.

        • Jenelle, I am so happy everything went well! I am praying for good outcomes for you. As with all other good things, our time online has to be limited by the constraints that go with responsibilities, relationships and life in general. I think it’s such a blessing to live in a time when we have so many great pastimes and experiences from which to choose, though it can get frustrating and overwhelming at times. As I’ve said, I’m just happy to have people here whenever they are able to drop by. Thanks for being here!

  6. Sheila

    Julia, I really do think there is strength in sharing our own faith, hope and courage and receiving the same from others. I have certainly taken so much from “Defeat Despair” for unknown circumstances and often days of uncertainty. I thank you today and everyday for your friendship and all that you equip us with for the road ahead! Happy weekend! 🙂

    • Sheila, thanks so much for your kind and generous words! Your support here has kept me going; I appreciate it so much!

  7. Hi Julia. Great photo. A little bit…the way life is at times. We’re traveling along smoothly and sudden, there is the sharp curve to throw us off.
    I, also want all the information about any new crisis in my life…but the more I know the harder it is to decide on what to do…
    Hope Matt had a good day. 🙂

    • Hi Merry, Matt is doing pretty well these days. Several times a day he mentions how happy he is to be home, and of course I ALWAYS agree! I’m an information junkie and on balance I think it has helped me more than it’s hurt me, but I do have a terribly hard time making decisions sometimes – I see so many different angles on things and it can get confusing. Glad you like the photo.

  8. I could be a might be handier at ‘rolling with the punches’. It’s really hard to adapt that persona as an adult because my childhood was a very structured and limited environment. Well, until my dad got home from work. Then it was like a big tension was relieved and we could be kids. I think I’d like to be more adventurous sometimes but it’s like going out on a ledge for me, really uncomfortable. On the flip side, I do think I learned to be a hard worker and good studier. If I don’t know something, I’m a quick study. I’ve only in recent years learned to feel ok about relying on others or asking for help when I need it. I’m just now as an adult figuring out that you don’t have to go it alone or be a scaredy cat.

    • Wow, this is interesting! I would not have imagined that you had a limited environment in childhood; you seem very creative and free-thinking to me. Of course, that could come as a result of being overly structured, but generally I think it’s more automatic to associate anxiety with such constraints. I think there are many of us who share your experience of learning only through age and maturity that it’s OK to trust, and to ask for help. I tend to be overly cautious in most ways, and that makes it terribly hard for me to make even simple decisions (what to buy, what to keep, what to throw away, what to eat, etc.) although I think it also prevents a lot of careless mistakes. I guess there are advantages either way; that’s one reason why it’s always good to have friends who are different from us, to help us stretch and grow.

  9. I will share the whole story with you sometime Julia, it’s too much of a drag to dwell on, so I don’t. Thank you for your kind words. To be thought of as free-thinking is a huge compliment. It’s possible the creativeness comes from my dads side of the family. I don’t think a childhood determines your perspective on life. It’s really such a short time. I’ve had a number of wonderful mentors in my life that encouraged and supported me then and now. I can relate to that old saying, “it takes a village to raise a child”. In a way it’s a great way to be accepting of a lot of different idea’s and you take a few of them as your own and tuck away what you don’t relate to.

    • K, that’s a good point about childhood not determining your whole life. While I think it’s important to understand early influences, they need not be something that chains us. As Ashleigh Brilliant said, “Sooner or later, we must give up all hope of a better yesterday.” So many people who accomplish great things have to overcome huge difficulties early in life. I agree that it takes a village, not only to raise a child, but to keep adults from getting too isolated, depressed or self-centered. I think it’s so important to know all kinds of different people and not just be confined to our own age group, geographical area or cultural heritage. How fortunate for all of us to have many different forms of support and many kinds of caring to keep us going!

  10. Paralysis by analysis, so true. Sometimes asking why isn’t the best question. Thanks for encouraging me by sharing stories from your life.

    • You’re welcome! Thanks for dropping by – I took a few minutes to visit your blog again, and I read an older post (“Going to work”) from last year – it is delightful! I like your stories too. They take me to a world that is different yet familiar in so many ways!

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