Yesterday a friend texted me asking some questions about (and reflecting on) love, truth, how much of what we "know" is true and how hard it is to not be sure you're right even though you're pretty sure you are. She's trying to be a Christian, trying to obey God, trying to love, and she's struggling to do it well, to even know what exactly "well" looks like. She feels like her hands and tongue are tied, and like that state is probably not okay.
That's how being on Facebook makes her feel.
Everyone has an opinion of what love and truth are, and this week in particular (but most weeks, really) everyone feels entitled to share it (as I suppose they are). The voices, opposed, clamorous, many, get in my head and confuse my thoughts. I read statuses and blog posts, often strongly worded, often overgeneralized, rarely complex and submissive, and I wonder what it is I'm supposed to believe and do--because everything I might believe or do is wrong according to someone.
I've been silent since the attacks in Orlando on Sunday. I've been quiet out of respect for the victims, because while we are all Americans and all God's creation, I don't want to appropriate their grief. It's theirs. They are the victims. Not me, living half a country away, with no direct connections to this tragedy. I remember when my brother died being so confused by the overwhelming (and often agenda-ed) reaction from people who barely knew him. It seemed like they were trying to benefit from our loss, grabbing attention, advancing a cause. So that's why I'm quiet (though I think everyone is free to react however they see fit and many have great reasons for speaking up).
Also, and at the heart of this post, I'm quiet because I don't know what I could say that would in any way help. And I think being quiet when you're ignorant is a gift.
I texted back to my friend, "I feel like God doesn't give me the wisdom I don't need; though He's always faithful to give me the wisdom I do." And what I mean is that I don't always know what's best. Because I don't always have to. Because everything isn't for me to solve or answer or handle. When God leads me into a conversation with a genuinely seeking soul, I've found He prepares me. But when I jump into one about things with which I have little experience or training perhaps with people simply looking to talk, I often find myself ill-equipped, grasping for understanding I can't quite grab, leaning on my own thoughts and desires.
I've learned I don't always have to have an answer. I don't need to know everything. And when I don't know, it seems like silence is the best course of action.
But I second guess that silence when bloggers tell me I can't be both silent and loving. Or when people tell me it's my responsibility to mourn with those who mourn, and by that they mean public displays of mourning. Or when people suggest not changing your profile picture is a form of homophobia. Or when there's pressure for every church, organization and website to make some sort of statement--despite the fact that every statement will be scrutinized and criticized.
Are they right? I don't know. But I know I don't know and so I can't in good conscience step into the conversation about what should be said with authority. Now here I am entering the conversation, and I don't know how I feel about that. I only know I can't advocate for silence in silence.
I think silence can be loving--particularly silence accompanied by action. I don't think people need to know my every thought or opinion. For one, because those thoughts aren't all holy. And for another, because even the holy thoughts don't always need a public stage.
If I feel like I have something wise and helpful to say on the Internet, I say it. I pray first. Post second. But if I simply feel compelled to say something--anything--I don't. We're allowed to opt out of the conversation. That doesn't make us jerks. It doesn't make us unloving. It makes us wise.
What you're not allowed to do is opt out of the living. Do the good works God's prepared for you. Love the people close, the people God's put under your influence and within your reach. Be a blessing to your direct community. In this particular case, perhaps the thing to do is to make friends with someone who's different from you in a significant way, to pray for your enemies and pray for people who aren't your enemies. Or maybe you just keep doing those things because you've been doing them all along.
But remember, you can do without talking about doing. In fact, God likes it when you do it without talking about it.
To review: We don't need to know and understand everything about anything in order to do something about one thing. The Internet will convince you otherwise. You'll hear a million opinions, mostly critical, and those opinions, stacked end to end, disheartening in their chaotic disagreement, have the ability to paralyze you. Whatever you do, you should know someone thinks you're doing it wrong.
We can only walk in the light as best we can, knowing God's grace covers us and giving grace to the people around us trying to do their best. If you don't know if you're doing it right, be quiet and listen to people who you think are.
If you're walking quietly out of healthy, searching ignorance, discretion or submission, that's perfectly acceptable. Don't let anyone convince you otherwise.