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Monk in the World Guest Post: Jean Wise

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission for the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Jean Wise’s reflection Living in the Shade of Mystery.

I don’t understand fishing.

I don’t fish. I didn’t grow up in a family who fishes. All those hooks, worms, and slimy flip-floppy critters baffle me.

Perhaps the biggest hindrance for fishing for me is the idea of “wasting” a full day, with a pole dipped in the water, waiting. Lingering in the muddy space of not knowing if and when the bait will work and supper caught.

In my second half of life, I am learning the language fishing speaks. As a monk in the world, I am slowly realizing the lessons of rest, wait, and unknown outcomes, symbolized in a pole and hook.

Life is like a day of fishing.

We live in the realm of gray uncertainty.

We dwell in the murkiness of questions, not clear answers.

We slowly move forward into the foggy journey of life, often only seeing one step ahead, instead of an obvious destination.

Not certain if and when I will catch that elusive fish, I live scanning the murky water of mystery.

I used to seek the perfect path and want those well-known and predictable ends. Easy clear routes to the known are more comfortable than being stretched into uncertainty. I only wanted the sunshine and clear weather and I treasured the good days.

I thought joy came from clarity and predictability. And security came from control. My control.

But now I understand life arrives both clean and dirty, happy and sad, full and empty. We live in an illusion of certainty with little control. I dance now to the music of mystery. I am finding comfort in the cool shade of uncertainty.

Like the flashing highway sign, I know life presents times to “expect delays” or to encounter “detours ahead.” Often these side trips offer the best adventures on a vacation.

When I don’t know everything, or have all of pieces fitting into the perfect place, I discover ways to be creative and to envision life from a new point of view.

I see the world as floating on an ocean, the current decided by a creator higher than myself who sees and knows the whole story, not the tiny view I have from my dinghy.

I am learning to embrace and live with the questions life brings with wonder and imagination. It’s ok to doubt, to welcome unknowns, to walk alongside of my fears and my hurts and listen to their stories.

Instead of wasting energy trying to control and predict my every move, I am enjoying the wind in my hair and the relaxation in the wait.

I am learning, still learning, to accept the depths of doubts. My ego and my emotions cling to the side of the pool, instead of swimming in the deep end, but at least I am finally in the water. I dive in with courage.

The truth is we never are in control or will live without some risk. Being a monk means taking the leap into the wild and wondrous river of life and laughing while riding the rapids.

As life overflows with ambiguity and vagueness, I discover the beauty in its shades. Amid the daily ordinary mud of life, I see prisms of light and enjoy pauses of peace.

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.” ~ Gilda Radner

I still don’t fish, but now I understand its lure. I embrace this gift of the unknown, full of mystery, uncertainties, and waiting. And I cast my pole into the sea of life and listen to its lessons.

Jean Wise is a writer and speaker at retreats, gatherings, and seminars. She is a spiritual director and Deacon for her local church. Jean lives in northwest Ohio with her husband enjoying their empty nest. Find out more at her website: or her blog:


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