• ashirk@gmail.com
  • Kijabe, Kenya
Into the Unknown

Into the Unknown

I woke up Christmas morning singing Frozen 2. 

Into the unknown. . .into the unknoooooowneeeooooowwnnn.

You might call this a Christmas miracle. Arianna thought I had lost my mind. But it just seemed like the right song to sing while opening presents and waiting for the coffee to hit my brain.

I’m struck by the known familiarity of the holiday, especially as we are back in South Carolina this year, reading the Christmas story with the girls, eating cinnamon rolls, opening presents, singing church hymns from memory, riding to church with Nana and Papa. 

We delight in knowing, whether lyrics to Christmas songs or the best hiding places in the house during games with cousins.  

Identity, security, belonging are important.  Arianna and I desperately want the girls to have safe places in America they think of as home, a sort of anchor amidst all of the transition that will happen in our Kenyan life, full of its endless coming and goings, hellos and goodbyes, joys and heartbreaks. We want them to know their cousins, to make memories and forge relationships they can trust.  

Yet, the Frozen song speaks to the essence of Christmas, divine entry into the unknown.  The Bible story says God surrendered his God-ness to become human. . .

to touch brokenness and beauty through human fingers,
to see failings and possibility through human eyes, 
to speak words of warning and hope through human lips, 
to know the joy and failure of human hearts.

Its easy to say Jesus’ birth was a miracle.
It is easy to say he died for sins on the cross. 

Jesus’s life – his words and actions – are just as miraculous. 

They question assumptions and expectations.  They threaten religious, political and economic structures.  To those with nothing, Jesus speaks words of life.  To those with everything, Jesus speaks words of warning.  To the sick, his touch is healing.  To the outcasts, he speaks words of invitation.  To scandalous women, he promises hope of restoration.  To sinners, Jesus does not offer a seat at the table, but rather demands the sinner offer his own table for a banquet.

Jesus rarely offers all full and complete picture, but rather, gives a cryptic invitation: come and follow me.  

Where?  To what end? 

Into the unknown, of course. Into the paradox.

This is as it should be.  

I don’t think Jesus is concerned with our certainty nearly as much as our trust.

My first pastor, a quirky old man named Brother Fred, used to say, “faith is knowing that even when it’s not all right, it’s going to be all right.”  

Amidst the swirling changes of the past year, in my mind, a verse repeated:  “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.“

A strange verse for Christmas, I know. I’m certain it has not made appearances on any greeting cards. But it speaks to the paradox of the unknown, and it has brought me great comfort as I have wrestled with shifting dreams and expectations.

In the womb of the unmarried virgin, there is a child.
In the unknown, there is a path.  
In the darkness there is a light.
In death there is life.  
In the unknown,
Even when it’s not alright, 
It’s going to be alright.