Let’s Dance Boldly in the Unresolved

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Ruthie Johnson -Boldly Unresolved3

I was adopted from India at five months old, and other than a few hospital papers and a referral photo, there’s not much more to document my life. For most people having five months of their lives unaccounted for would be weird, even worrisome. For me, it’s just normal.

I don’t remember asking if I was adopted, I always just knew (apart from the obviousness of not looking like my parents.) I do remember asking my mom questions. Did she think I looked like my birthmother or my birthfather? Did my birthmom hold me? Did she see me before I was given away? She couldn’t always answer them, but sometimes we’d make up stories and wonder.

I still have some of those questions. Sometimes, I realize that’s idyllic. There’s no way of knowing if there was selfish or selfless motive in my birth mother’s heart, but that is part of the grateful grief that fills adoption. There’s always this loss and knowing… even if it’s a knowing-that-you-won’t-know. (Yes, I know that sentence was complicated to read, it’s even more complicated to live).

I’ve always had this understanding that some things would remain unresolved.

Little did I know, being “unresolved” has become such a formative part of my journey.  A lot of my stories are latent with moments of not adding up, “almosts” and “not quite.” Like the time I wanted to be in full-time ministry but didn’t quite get my funding. Or the time I was dating someone and we almost got married. Even when I have had momentary glimpses of celebration, they seem to later dissolve under challenge and unfortunate circumstance. There’s a lot that remains mysterious—unresolved—as I look at my life. I wonder how, or if, it will add up.

We live in a culture that glorifies happily-ever afters. The heroes are the ones who defy all the odds—not the ones who try their hardest and still have messes. We want to hear about victory, the healing, the win. Rarely do we make spaces for the almosts and not yet, much less the sadness, the confusion, and suffering that accompany the unknown. 

I want to see our stories of heroism change. Let’s be bold to be unresolved. I want our stories of hardship and hurt to be equally heard, shared and celebrated. We are bolder for trying, for striving, for getting back up. Let’s trust ourselves and each other with the things we don’t quite know—the messy, the blurry, the unknowns.

Being unresolved reminds us we are vulnerable, broken and need to be known. It’s hard to trust what doesn’t make sense. The miscarriage, the breakup, the loss of a job. Sometimes it’s not enough to say, “Life isn’t fair.” Don’t we already feel that so deeply in our being?

An unresolved state draws us out of our prefabricated categories and compartments. It invites us to discover something more.

We are no longer either progressive or conservative.
Rich or poor.
We are not young or old.
We are not pro-this or anti-that.
We are not the haves or have nots.

These unresolved spaces become sacred when our narratives of heroism change. We are invited to a sacred space, instead. The Holy Spirit inhabits mystery. She shows up in the unknown. She calls us out of darkness, She illuminates the deep. She forms and transforms these unfinished edges of our lives.

Let’s be bold and share what is unresolved. Let’s explore how much bigger God can be. Let’s share the messy in-betweens of process and mistakes, of learning and unlearning what we think our hearts already know.

God resides in mystery and calls us deeper.  

I want to see us be bold enough to say, “I don’t know” and keep looking for the answers. Let’s dance in the unknown. Let’s pursue the mystery. Let’s seek out what’s hardest to find.

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Ruthie Johnson
I’m a kid at heart who found a great job in higher ed doing what I love— crossing cultures & teaching others how to be Jesus through their ethnic identity. I have a Master's in Communication Studies and focus on critical race theory, postcolonial theory/theology & identity studies (yah, I’m a nerd). I believe in God’s multiethnic kingdom (for the now and the not yet). I believe that it takes collaboration from people of all tribes, nations and languages to work towards shalom & reconciliation. When I’m not hanging out with students, I write, read, cook and art. Join me as I navigate the blurry lines of multi-ethnicity and try to find a little Jesus in the midst of it.
Ruthie Johnson
Ruthie Johnson

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Ruthie Johnson
  • Nichole Bilcowski Forbes

    This is beautiful and SO what I needed. I like tidy endings. I like to know how it will all work. I like to know that it will all work out … yet I live in the squiggly curves of the question mark. I know nothing. I know nothing but that it’s okay I know nothing.

    I’ve learned to sit in the unresolved. Maybe it’s time to learn to dance there too. ❤Thank you!

  • fiona lynne

    I love everything about this. You wrote what is bubbling up in my own heart these days, and it’s such an encouragement. “The Holy Spirit inhabits mystery. She shows up in the unknown. She calls us out of darkness, She illuminates the deep. She forms and transforms these unfinished edges of our lives.” YES! This has been my experience and yet still I am so slow to see it on my here and now. Thank you for the beautiful reminder.

  • I’m learning that there’s a humility to the stance you describe: it’s hard for me to say, “God, you know how this will end, and I don’t.”
    Thank you for advocating for this bold leaning-in to the truth of God’s omniscience.

  • Yes but no…Oh, I hate the unresolved. Don’t we all? I want plans. I want tidy. I am learning that I have so, so much more to learn from letting go and accepting the unresolved. Thank you for this, sister. “I want to see us be bold enough to say, “I don’t know” and keep looking for the answers. Let’s dance in the unknown. Let’s pursue the mystery. Let’s seek out what’s hardest to find.” Tattooing this on my soul this day (and also that picture of the Indian dancer will remain in my minds eye when I think of you). xoxo

    • <3 love you! and yes, I totally get *wanting* the plans. One step at at time, right?

  • Tracy Nelson

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU … wow … I’ve been living SO LONG in the unresolved … been waiting to finish my book for 12 years, waiting for a resolution, but perhaps, the wonder will be in the unresolved? …. the mystery? … the what if? ….. perhaps in the unresolution, there will BE resolution – resolving to endure – no matter what, because most of real life is NOT the “happily ever after.” …. I really needed this today – thank you!

  • This is so powerful. In our quest for the happily ever after, we lose sight of the journey – almosts, not-quites, disappointments, and all. Thanks for this call to a new heroism and a new story.

  • Stephanie Cater

    As I was reading, I tried to pull out a favourite quotation or two, but I couldn’t… There is so much glory and Spirit woven through this whole piece. Thank you, thank you for writing it. We have so much to learn about leaning into the tension of the unresolved pieces of our lives: it is the reality of a now-and-not-yet kingdom, and God is with us in all of it.

    • Thanks so much for reading! and a big fat AMEN to the now/not yet. It’s such a hard tension, but so deeply worth it.

  • Julianne Vandergrift

    I am in the midst of the unresolved most of the time and yearn for space to accept that there are no easy answers or fixes for the complexities of life. Here, I have found women who don’t need to define, outline and rearrange everything that happens and yet are strong enough to be in the middle of the mess and allow me to be in the middle of my mess too. My mess does not scare you. I wish I could accurately describe the feeling in my heart when I read your words. It came out like a YES, but it was a tender and soft knowing, an identifying, a she too, feeling that melted me and accepted me and inspired me all in the same sweet moment. My deepest thanks for touching that sacred part of my heart with your heart.

    • Thanks for your kind thoughts and I’m so glad you’re here! YES! to messes that don’t scare each other away 🙂