Facing Uncertainty with Curiosity

Facing Uncertainty with Curiosity

Author: Rebecca Bryan
June 30, 2020

COVID is a thief. As 2019 ended, I was anxious about 2020…for how busy my calendar was going to be! I was just starting a new position at Rutgers; my consulting business, through which I offer training on how to become trauma-informed, was taking off too. I was scheduled to work two PCUSA Credo conferences, had travel plans to both Malawi, Africa (for a wedding) and Germany (for our daughter’s graduation) …and the year would culminate in our son’s wedding in December.

It’s all gone. Okay, not the training webinars – those seem to be more popular than ever, seeing how everyone is feeling traumatized these days – but the steady job, the travel, my husband’s job, too …gone. Our son’s wedding is postponed for a year. These losses come on top of ubiquitous losses of the pre-pandemic life I know I took for granted, the most significant loss for me being weekly in-person worship and singing in choir.

What I am left with is uncertainty and grief. In the webinars I lead, I often teach the “hand model of the brain” (thank you, Dan Siegel): if you hold your hand straight up in the air, your wrist is the spinal cord, the base of the hand is your survival brain, fold your thumb in and that’s your emotional (limbic) brain, then fold your remaining 4 fingers down over your thumb and that’s your rational (cortex) brain. The brain wires first and foremost for survival, so if it picks up on a threat, your survival brain hijacks your rational brain and you “flip your lid” (lift your 4 fingers back up straight to experience this).

For me, living with uncertainty is living with my lid flipped most of the time – functioning out of my emotional brain (less patience, less bandwidth for others), or my survival brain (feeling agitated, muscles tense, difficulty with focusing). I know ways to cope – I’ve been blogging about resiliencepractices, for goodness sake – but some days they just aren’t cutting it. And that’s when I remember:

Be still and know
That I am God.

We are in a global season of change, and my faith teaches me the universal pattern of it. Richard Rohr, in his book, The Universal Christ, writes, “Resurrection is another word for change, but particularly positive change – which we tend to see only in the long run. In the short run, it often just looks like death.” He goes on to say, “Jesus’s first incarnate life, his passing over into death, and his resurrection into the ongoing Christ life is the archetypal model for the entire pattern of creation. He is the microcosm for the whole cosmos, or the map of the whole journey, in case you need or want one.”

Give me that map! Remind me that what I perceive as death is in fact a part of the larger pattern of life. And that the death of our old ways is necessary if resurrection is to occur. I feel called to let go in deep trust that this tide will pass, and the new way will become clear. I am reminded of this pattern as I watch my garden grow, watch the sun rise and set, even in how we die a little death by going to sleep each night, trusting we will rise in the morning.

I have no idea how the rest of this summer will play out, let alone fall and winter. But my faith nudges me to be curious, rather than fearful. And if I still myself and sit with that, I feel my lid come incrementally back down.


First Presbyterian Church


20 King's Highway East, Haddonfield, NJ 08033
(856) 429-1960