We are masters of uncertainty

by Nick Wagner

As I write this, I have just read that a newly elected member of the United States House of Representatives has died from Covid-19. He didn’t even get to take the oath of office. I know nothing about him except what was in the brief news report of his death. He is not from my state and not from the political party I usually vote for. And yet, learning of his death hit me kind of hard. After a year of grieving for the losses from catastrophic fires in both Australia and California, mourning the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and so many other Black brothers and sisters, surviving the most contentious political season in my lifetime, and being required to spend most of my days sequestered in my 900-square-foot condo, I don’t have much capacity for more trauma. I am ready to put 2020 in a box and bury it.

In this issue, Diane Lucille Meyer writes:

These are strange times of great difficulty, and as a helper, whether you are a therapist, spiritual director, or teacher, the challenge of assisting someone in locating their strength and resiliency can feel like an impossible task. As faith weakens, fear and panic increase, then depression and despair set in. Offered words may seem frivolous and weak and can be met with cynicism and shame.

While it seems as though Meyer is writing about 2020, she submitted her article to me before the year had barely begun. We had yet to learn of any of the “strange times of great difficulty” that lay ahead of us.

While 2020 was a year in which many of us shared common episodes of catastrophe and craziness, any time in any year can yield a day of despair. The challenge for those of us who live spiritual lives is to stay strong in our faith. And for those of us who are called to be any kind of spiritual companion, we especially need to faithful to what got us here. Because not only does our spiritual well-being depend upon our faithfulness, but so too does the well-being of those we choose to accompany on the path of mystery.

And that is so blasted hard! I want a break, not only from the darkness of 2020 but also from any responsibility I have to be a shoulder, ear, rock, refuge, port, haven, or especially guide. But this thing we are good at, what we are blessed with, our gift, didn’t come with a return receipt.

Meyer says:


What we forget is that we are born masters at working with uncertainty, difficulty, and strife, and as practitioners, the way to guide someone through the dark forest without language, maps, or magic is to help them reconnect to the creator that resides within their own hearts and souls, their creative source. It is there where they will find the natural movement through, by wordless dialogue with the Divine.

Our gift for accompanying others is why we’re here. And it’s not in the good times when we are most needed. It is now.

“Altar to the Four Elements” — Lisa Palchick

This Article Appears In


Volume 27, Number 1 – March 2021



Nick Wagner

Nick Wagner has been editor of Presence since 2001. He manages the entire team — editorial panel, authors, poetry editor, art editor, copy editor, proofreader, and graphic artist.


Lisa Palchick graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in painting, an MA in education, and an MA in communications from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA. Lisa is now a working artist and a spiritual director and is affiliated with the Spirituality Network, Columbus, Ohio, USA. Contact Lisa at lisa.palchick@icloud.com.