The Adventure of Uncertainty

The Adventure of Uncertainty

Will van der Hart

The Christian life is not about resolving every uncertainty; it is about really living despite our uncertainty.

I am scrutinising the safety card again and watching the in-flight attendant point, penguin-like, to the exits that I had already noted on the way in. It’s not that I am afraid of flying; it’s just that safety information is a worrier’s drug and a virtuous one at that. I look on my fellow passenger, already snoozing, with a haughty distain. ‘Don’t you come asking me how to, ‘double wrap and bow’ your life jacket if the need arises,’ I say in my head. But then, with a little envy in my heart, I wonder why I am not asleep? Why does this familiar information feel all too important to me?

Statistically life has never been safer, but our experience of anxiety has never been greater. You would assume that vastly improved healthcare, education, public safety and national security would reduce our propensity towards fear. But worry is at epidemic levels: 7 million anti-anxiety prescriptions were offered in the UK on the NHS last year, and approximately 40 million American adults show symptoms of an anxiety disorder.

The most primitive response to fear is escape, and we continue to do this in spades. Not by physically running away, but by attempting to undo the conundrums in our minds: the work colleague we fear dislikes us, the darkening mole on a shoulder, the sense that we are in the wrong job. Google is the new back door that we can run through, comforted by the shared experiences of others or terrified by the search result that confirms we do have Bubonic Plague.

The most primitive response to fear is escape

If anything can be held responsible for the heightening of anxiety in our lives, it is a fundamental shift in our relationship to uncertainty. Whilst information is available on an unprecedented scale, people’s threshold for ‘not knowing’ has fallen considerably.

Consider the art of weather forecasting. One hundred years ago a farmer would lick his finger, hold it in the air and tell you where the wind was coming from. Now, satellite technology can give you an accurate picture of the weather up to 15 days in advance. The availability of this knowledge, coupled by our instinct to mitigate risk, is stealing our ability to rest in uncertainty.

The power of anxiety and the drive to eradicate uncertainty have stolen life’s adventure. This is of course a direct contrast to the promise of Jesus who said, ‘I have come to give you life and life in all its fullness’ (John 10:10). Oprah Winfrey has said, ‘The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.’ However, through Mind and Soul’s work in emotional health, we have seen an increasing number of people who are only living their life ‘in their dreams’.

One of the reasons that we love Alpha is that it does not take the uncertainty out of life; it takes life out of uncertainty. The Christian life is not about resolving every uncertainty; it is about really living despite our uncertainty. The Christian life proposes that we can have certainty in the things that are truly important – in our relationship with God, in our value as people and in our eternal future. Everything else is an adventure to be enjoyed together. As the great reformer Martin Luther said, ‘Pray and let God worry.’

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Sheela's Story

Sheela's Story

The idea of running Alpha in the workplace honestly stemmed from a practical reason – late working hours were a barrier to my colleagues being able to attend Alpha at church. It made sense to bring Alpha to the workplace for those who were interested to give it a go.

I remember feeling quite nervous and unsure the first time we ran it back in 2014. I didn’t know what to expect or if anyone would even turn up! ‘Ye of little faith’ I remember a friend saying to me when we ended up with a solid group of about 20 in that first round. Since then, we’ve run Alpha four times - sometimes with larger groups, sometimes with smaller groups - but each experience has never failed to be just as amazing.

The most interesting aspect for me about running Alpha in our workplace was the immediate connection that people made from having something fundamental in common – where they work. There was little need for breaking the ice and discussions took off from day 1 with guests feeling comfortable sharing their thoughts and perspectives.

Alpha in the workplace complements what the church is doing by reaching out to a community that might not have been able to be reached. So many of us know that being out there in the corporate world trying to make it in the great rat race can get tiring and it’s only a matter of time before one begins to ask “Is there more to life that this?” – which is a question that was on the minds of our guests when they came. Alpha provided that safe space for conversations that might not have taken place otherwise.

The most memorable account from a guest for me comes from a guy who had attended our first ever run of Alpha. Post-Alpha, he told us that while was hesitant initially about the whole idea, eventually the weekly sessions became a place of refuge for him in the busyness of work. He said that it was a truly unexpected experience - “Work is what I had associated with stress and a lack of peace but through Alpha, work became a place I found hope, peace and faith.”

It’s not smooth sailing all the time but it is stories like this and many more of that nature that remind me that even if it’s for one person each round, it’s still worth it. And I’d just love to encourage anyone who’s thinking about it to just give it a go! The training and material make the process really simple to get started. Your adventure of a lifetime in running Alpha is just around the corner… trust me, it’s worth it!

Work is what I had associated with stress and a lack of peace but through Alpha, work became a place I found hope, peace and faith.
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