How to Trust the Clockmaker

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Q_Esther

I was 22 years old when I decided to start a professional theatre company.

At the time I had a brand new college degree and a dream, so of course I did what all foolish creative people do when we are young: I tried to make a nonprofit arts organization from scratch.

These were the best of times. They were the worst of times.

There were four of us who formed the core group. I was perhaps the most magnetically drawn to leadership or the most likely to be making decisions, anyway, about all the many, many things we had to decide. And one of these things that I decided, after a particularly grueling day of all of us having absolutely no idea what we were doing, was that nobody was allowed to ask any more questions.

Uncertainty was everywhere. We were getting lost in all our questions. We were losing time and wasting energy; nothing was getting done fast enough. I thought if I heard one more cheerful, “Where do we all want to go for dinner?” or musing, “Do you think we should drive or walk?” or socially accommodating, “Which table would you like to sit at?”—I was going to lose my head.

So I made this ultimatum. No. More. Questions.

Our little theater company didn’t make it. Probably not because of my No Questions rule. Probably just because we were young and figuring it all out and most of us ended up doing completely different things with our lives anyway.

But my No Questions passion has survived. I still find myself, in moments of pressure, crying out, I CAN’T HANDLE ANY MORE OPTIONS RIGHT NOW! SOMEBODY JUST DECIDE.

And, more importantly, I have made a lifetime pursuit of shaking distracting questions that waste my power and my precious time.

This is my question; how do I get rid of the questions?

How do I lose the distractions? How do I not waste my time trying to decide between life options laid out by a system I believe is broken? And how do I not lose myself running a race of self justification … when the only thing that matters is a core identity that isn’t created by me, anyway?

I want what everybody else wants, too: to walk this world doing the most of what matters most to me. I want to spend my time in the reality of my power to love, and my power to be active in that love. I want to be present with my little piece of land, and the people I have who need me. I want to take care of the things that are right in front of my nose, not try to sort through which things I want delivered from a catalogue. And I want to grow where I’m planted and not waste the moments of my life planning futures that can’t possibly be guaranteed.

Of course I don’t get this by yelling NO QUESTIONS. I get it, oddly, not by shutting down the little questions so much as leaning into the BIG ones. What is my WHY, as a wife, as a mom, as a follower of Christ? What calms the anxious nagging of little worries and gives me the power to envision wholeness? How can I navigate this exhausting era of instant delivery and limitless options…and keep my soul intact?

I follow the rhythms built in. There are rhythms in day and night and summer and winter and even—I’m just starting to see this—the decades of my life. I follow the clockmaker, trusting that the clock is well-made. He did, after all, say that it was good.

Sometimes I close my eyes. Sometimes I lie down, sometimes right on the ground. I look for the place inside where there is deep silence and deep love and even in these crazy times the heart is still okay. I chase the wholeness, and let the broken shards go.

I trust that though the questions remain, it isn’t my job to answer every one of them. I trust that I am a piece of something beautiful, even if I can’t see how that can possibly be true. I trust that I should hold what I can, and let go of what I can’t and bear exactly that much uncertainty.

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Esther Emery
Esther Emery used to direct stage plays in Southern California. But that was a long time ago. Now she is pretty much a runaway, living off the grid in a yurt and tending to three acres in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. She writes about faith and rebellion and trying to live a totally free life at www.estheremery.com.
Esther Emery
Esther Emery

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Esther Emery
  • Turning this over and over and enjoying the strong truth -> “I trust that I am a piece of something beautiful . . .”
    Yes, when we’re tired, when we’re not sure of the next step, this is the way to go.

  • Oh, I’m turning this over and over in my brain. Part of me agrees with your old impatience with questions–letting go of false dichotomies and walking a deliberate path instead of dithering about paint color. Honing down to the essentials and also recognizing that choosing is often the least of our worries. But also: facing and asking questions is what has woken me up the most. Realizing that I MUST CHOOSE to be on the side of the angels in each moment, and the only way to do that is to wake up to fact that I have that choice in the first place. Is it sorting through which questions are worth asking? Being comfortable with the fact that most of the most important questions are actually unanswerable but us and laying down in the midst of them anyway? Am I completely missing the point of your essay?
    Also: love this.

  • pastordt

    Ah, yes. This is one of the through-lines of contemporary culture: too many options! Excellent reflection on this thorny problem, Esther. Thank you.

  • Esther, I love this idea of following the rhythms. I’ve been leaning into the rhythms God built into creation more and more for the last several years, and it’s been so, so good… Just the right balance of the new and the familiar. Every time we repeat the cycle, I find that I am new.

  • Sandy Hay

    ” I look for the place inside where there is deep silence and deep love and even in these crazy times the heart is still okay. I chase the wholeness, and let the broken shards go.” This is it. You nailed it Esther 🙂

  • I come from a long line of over-thinking people-pleasers so I’ve been known to impatiently say, “someone just decide something” as we navigate family discussions. It’s harder for me in organization settings though, where I’m usually balancing consensus building with decision making. It’s great to be reminded that it’s not my job to know every. little. thing. Thanks for this!

  • Leaning into the big questions and following the Clockmaker.

    This. I need this.

    So thought-provoking, Esther, thank you.