I love clarity. Waking up in the morning and having a clear sense of the day ahead strikes me as a good way to live. It seems so right to want clear insight for whatever problems the day may bring. That I could have a clear view of how things fit or belong together, that no moral conflict or moral ambiguity would ever interfere, this sounds to me like a really good life.
Would that it could be so easy. If only the dividing lines between beauty and ugliness, care and neglect, or like and dislike, for example, would be consistently sharp and absent of fuzziness. You know full well, however, that what might be ugly to me may be beautiful to you. And what I consider likable you could easily find detestable. All of this is to say that embracing absolutes, while outwardly so very easy, is not a realistic or considerate way to live in a complex world.
Just when I want to be an absolutist on any subject from abortion to end-of-life care, I encounter a gut-wrenching story of someone’s personal suffering that requires me to broaden my understanding. Compassion insists that we be open to changing our minds and altering our viewpoints.
It’s not easy to live faithfully in a world that’s constantly entangled in ambiguity and complexity. There are days when I feel clumsy navigating some of life’s most perplexing challenges. The image that comes to mind is the Double Dutch jump rope game where two separate jump ropes rotate fast in opposite directions. I’m astounded by the split-second coordination of people who can time their jump between two ropes flying at them from different directions. I have tried it before and remember standing there paralyzed, getting whipped by the ropes, and never even lifting off the ground.
Pick a different image for yourself, if you wish. All I want to consider today is the challenge of living faithfully in a world where even when moral law is clear, it doesn’t tell us exactly how to behave in every situation. Perhaps we have to learn to make the wisest choices we can without feeling the need to be entirely sure all the time. And we could afford to trust that God has something better to offer than just our own ingenuity and insistent ways. That’s about as clear-headed as my mind can put it on this day.