Don’t Know Much

When I was taking Russian courses in college (yeah, I know.  And I can’t remember more than three words now!) we used to sing this goofy song called “I Don’t Know.”  It gets stuck in my head all the time.  Here is the English translation:  “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know anything, it’s good, it’s good.”  Trust me, the Russian is more fun.

The song returned with a vengeance a while back as I listened to some guest speakers at our campus ministry meeting.  Some of them were so refreshingly honest about, well, not knowing much.

You see, I had invited the members of one of our church’s young adult groups to speak to the undergraduates.  I specifically invited the folks in the “older-young-adult” category (is there such a thing?):  folks who had several years’ experience with work, relationships, family, and so on.  I invited them to share their faith journey and reflect on the challenges of being a young Christian adult.

I thought they would give a bunch of sage advice to the undergrads, but they gave them something even better.  They reflected on what it’s like to travel the path of not knowing.  They shared experiences of relationships gone sour, job plans not working out, and worries over life’s big questions.

As I sat there listening, I couldn’t help but be a little stunned.  All of the guest speakers were highly educated, eloquent, thoughtful people.  How could they feel that they didn’t know much?

I think part of the answer is that we are all too focused on know-how.  If you’re an average American child or teenager, everyone asks you, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, and they are looking for nouns, not adjectives.  Throughout public school, you take a bunch of career assessments and classes that produce tangible results (i.e., scores on a test.)  Even the most elite among us, whom you’d think could afford not to worry about a career, are obsessed with getting their kids into the top medical schools, law schools, and investment firms.  Everyone worries about knowing how to succeed, how to make an A, how to get results.

But what do we really know?

Even in church we are hampered by the allure of know-how, and cheated out of our quest for knowledge.  One of the guest speakers at our campus ministry night talked about how she couldn’t really get started on a rich journey with God until she joined our church, where she learned it was OK to ask questions.  Apparently, previous churches had taught her all the know-how of getting a ticket into heaven and being a good girl.  Problem was, they stopped there.

Here’s one thing I do know.  If you try to go it alone, this journey toward knowledge is like trudging through a bog.  Our lives are a mixture of independence and interdependence.  No matter how many blogs and books you read, or how many inspirational podcasts and songs are coming though your earbuds, you need some traveling companions to help you find a clear path.  Another guest speaker talked about how he knew he couldn’t do everything on his own, especially after becoming a father.  I wish I could bottle his words and give them to every person who tells me they don’t need any help from anyone else (or from God.)

As I plan for next year’s campus ministry events, the idea of knowledge rattles around in my brain, just like the goofy song.  I hope I can help some students find their traveling companions.  I hope I can help them see past the world of know-how, and into the great mysteries of what it is to know.

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Cherrie Henry on March 23, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    Good reflection Kerri. Sure resonates with me! 🙂 Thanks!


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