Freed from Knowing
BY JUSTIN WHITE | August 3, 2020
“What do you think is going to happen?”
Almost every conversation I’ve had over the past months presents this question. Depending on the context, the question could refer to concerns about amassing students, faculty, and staff during a global pandemic. Or it could refer to local, national, and federal responses to a reckoning with racism and police brutality. Or—and for me this is the heaviest one to ponder—it could refer to the presidential election this year.
Regardless of the context, the question is centered around how not knowing can be terrifying. Especially when we are navigating issues that impact our lives. This is when, for me, being hopeful and faithful becomes difficult. How do I, we, remain hopeful and faithful as we continue to see COVID-19 cases rise? How do I, we, remain hopeful and faithful while at the time I am writing this, the officers that killed Breonna Taylor have not been arrested? How do I, we, remain hopeful and faithful knowing that there is a chance that a presidential re-election is possible? God asks us to be hopeful and faithful, but when you sit in a deserted place with family, friends, and strangers and there is no “food”…what do you do?
The people in that deserted place in yesterday’s Gospel did not know what was going to happen, but they were fed. The disciples did not know how they were going to feed those people, but they witnessed a miracle. Jesus, after hearing about his cousin’s death, probably did not think he had the capacity to care for a large crowd—but he cured and fed those gathered.
God does not ask us to know what will happen. God asks us to remember the covenant—that we cannot be separated from God’s love. In a way this frees us to focus on what is truly in our control.
No matter how bleak the situation, no matter how much food is left, no matter the pain of mourning, God’s love exists. It is with this love that we confidently, firmly, and compassionately forge forward with justice, assemble community, protect the vulnerable, hold accountable those in power, and build the Kingdom of God.
Justin T. White is a middle school counselor, admissions associate, and clubs and activities coordinator at Loyola Blakefield in Towson, Maryland.
In these testing times, it is a blessing and a privilege to have life in our bodies. Where there is life, there is hope. Long live life and long live hope.
I’m sure you would agree that in the end, asking “What do you think is going to happen?” is like watching the “news” tonight only to wake up in the morning and see how it has all changed. Nothing to bet on-nothing to waste your time on. If we are hopeful, we are free. If we are faithful, we are free. Why? Because we have placed our trust in the only solid source of hope and faith there is-Almighty God.
I was a little concerned by your question of how do we remain faithful and hopeful knowing that there is a chance that a presidential re-election is possible. Justin, if we have faith, hope and trust in God then we don’t need to ask that question. If God knows the number of hairs on our heads then surely He knows our concerns and needs etc. If you worry about a presidential re-election then deep down are you wanting control-wanting things to turn out your way? But, if you pray and converse with God about your concerns and give it all to Him how do you know that things won’t in the long run turn out for your best regardless of who the next president is? You don’t know. I don’t know. Because, in the end, with prayer things do turn out for your best but perhaps not in the agenda you might choose. We will see that some day but in the meantime we must trust and give it all to God. In your conversations express that trust. Ask the Holy Spirit for help in understanding and pray that you will be able to literally give it all to God-let it go. God does answer our prayers. God is never early and never late. Trust that God has something in store for you in the next election and wait and see what it is. Trust and feel and know that freedom. God values each and every life there is/was. If we are made in the image and likeness of God then it might behoove us to pay attention to a presidential candidate who values life at every stage-from conception to natural death.
As you say in your article, we cannot be separated from God’s love. Not “in a way” as you say but definitely this “frees us to focus on what is truly in our control.” “God’s love exists” because God is love. With a weapon such as love we are in the best of hands.
Blessings on you, Justin. Thanks for your article.
Society today is too soft to deal and tackle real issues, we spend too much time hiding behind religion, technology, signs and false ideology to try to get a 1 up on the other side. That is fact not fiction and using God has a tool is a method to try intimidate those that have fallen for fake news and preying on peoples emotions is morally wrong and needs to stop. Has for Taylor she was a unfortunate victim of the company she kept and if it wasn’t the officer that made a decision after been fired upon, maybe that lifestyle would of been someone else who are we to judge and become jury. The question people need to start asking is What would you of done if it was you that was fired upon and you were the officer ? Will you condemn violence vs police ? ( no you won’t so stop been narrow minded and playing victim ) the differences are you have more then 2 seconds to think and will most likely never be in the officers position in your life, so less judgement more understanding in the difficulty the police face daily and even worse at this time. Over the next 2 weeks I will be seeing that 250k worth of food and resources reach those in poverty in Kentucky it’ll be a rush but hopefully will be done. God Bless…..less judgement is the key to equality.
My father, Frank Mele, who is part of your network and has a close relationship with the Jesuit order most of his life, forwarded me your article, “Freed from Knowing”. I enjoyed this piece very much. I see Love as the medium in which everything exists. Because of this belief system I sometimes take a different view of human crisis. Please find my attached OpEd published in the SF Chronicle on July 26, 2020.
Thank you and enjoy,
Title: Drawing optimism out of the darkness of a pandemic
For all the obvious difficulties, illness and deaths that the Coronavirus caused, I also realize that the virus provided countervailing benefits. Some benefits result from the solidarity of our species choosing to be kind to each other. Others are a result of a slower pace of life, an outcome of the shelter-in-place orders. I call this slower pace of life the COVID pause. I will discuss both types of benefits in this article and propose why keeping some of these gifts will strengthen humanity going forward.
What are the first images that come to mind when I think of COVID-19 and the human species? A Vietnamese grandfather with heart pains and difficulty breathing, being held in a bed, isolated without his wife, children and grandchildren gathered around, until the hospital staff checks that he is Coronavirus free. Not being with his family fills him with fear. This makes him weaker. He dies two weeks later, not from COVID-19, but from a weak heart that was stressed beyond mending. An image of a young man who wants to provide for his three children and was able to do so until three weeks after the shelter-in-place orders began. Then he lost his job and the income that came with it. The image of uncertainty in a thirteen year old’s eyes as she sees the fear in her single mother’s face; the unspoken thought, “Where will I get the money for rent this month?” All of these images speak of unfortunate sadness, stress and disillusionment.
Now, what happens when I look deeper? What happens when I choose to see through a lens that shows the empathy and greatness of our species instead of focusing on suffering and sadness? I see a family biking together laughing, absorbing the sunshine and fresh air. I hear frogs across from my home for the first time in years. I hear countless stories of young neighbors shopping for our elders, so these incredibly wise and vital contributors to our society can continue to stay safe in their homes. I read a story in the San Francisco Chronicle about the Los Angeles Lakers and Shake Shack. They both had received the first round of the coronavirus relief loan. Already well funded, they immediately paid the loans back so smaller businesses could benefit.
As I hold both the fear-based images as human animals, alongside the love-based images as human spirit, I see the capacity of our species to both unconsciously react out of an instinct of fear, and consciously respond out of pause and thoughtfulness and choose to listen to the grace of our intuition, of human spirit. This conscious gift of choice is both innate and precious to our species.
So, how do I choose to live from human spirit?
Practically, this means acknowledging that my past frenzied focus on external material gain is only a symptom of my true desire… to fill an inner hollowness. Therefore, only internal wealth can address the true source of my void. How do I cultivate this wealth? I honor and use this gift of the COVID pause. I choose to fill my wellspring, an invisible source of always replenishing love. I do this by spending time in nature, at home with my family, meditating, living a slower pace to find what really brings me joy.
As we begin to lighten our shelter-in-place regulations, let us be thoughtful and judicious about how we choose to weave “the normal” into our COVID pause. Perhaps instead of things going back to how they were before the coronavirus, each of us consciously choose to keep some of the gifts of the COVID pause. Here is what I want to keep after shelter in place ends. For myself, individually:
• Slowing down,
• Driving less,
• More time for internal reflection,
• More time outdoors and in nature,
• Clearing clutter and organizing,
• More flexible hours working from home,
• More time with family,
• More exercising and
• Eating healthier with more vegetables.
For us, collectively:
• Seeing more stars at night,
• Our elders living at home with their families instead of in nursing homes,
• Refugees being taken into countries and cared for immediately,
• Housing the homeless in unused hotel rooms,
• Construction of new buildings slowing down, and instead utilizing the ones built more effectively,
• Buying used items instead of new, from our neighbors and local community,
• Strangers wanting to hug (and now they’ll get to) and
• Nature shining brighter, hearing more birds and frogs, and seeing more wildlife come out of hiding.
What would your lists be?
What would the world look like if each of us chose to take this COVID pause as an opportunity? What if after shelter-in-place ends,
• Our employers grant us the choice to work from home more and commute less thus giving us cleaner air?
• Those who employ the heroes that make our country run like teachers, grocery workers, wait staff, custodians and healthcare workers really honor them by paying them true living wages, better benefits and we all purposeful thank them out loud and often?
• We continue to run errands for our neighbors, be kind to strangers, and ourselves with quality self-care practices?
I see a future where humanity is more thoughtful, altruistic, and loving than ever before. A world that focuses on filling up our internal wellspring not with material purchases, and instead on those intangibles: a smile, positive thoughts and emotions, and honoring our planet. A humanity where our species lives from human spirit, aligned with grace and love. This vision is rooted in the truth that we are all connected: you, me, our country, our world, all humans, all relations, nature, our planet and our universe.
The COVID pause has given us an opening to live a slower, more purposeful life. It is an opportunity to be a better humanity and a better people. We each have the power to co-create a world that continues this. It is our choice to collaboratively create a soulful future for us all.