One of my least favorite challenges in college was deciding on a paper topic. My favorite classes were the ones where the professor would hand around a topic list for us to choose from. Even if there were fifty choices, it was easier to narrow down from there than to just pull an idea out of thin air. The options offered guidance and suggestion.
I tended to gravitate toward unusual topics. I wanted to chose something I knew nothing about. Something not too many others would choose. I landed one such topic my freshman year. My Old Testament Survey professor handed around a list, and “Urim and Thummim” caught my eye. I grabbed it and dove into research, hoping to shed some light on the mysterious items stored in the breastplate of the high priest of Israel.
As source after source shed very little light on the true identity of the Urim and Thummim, I realized that not even Biblical scholars knew what this tool of the priests really was. I found myself very grateful that this was to be a short paper, because I feared I would not even find enough information to meet the minimum page requirement! I began to wonder why my professor would even have put the topic on the suggestion list knowing how little information existed.
I cannot tell you what my professor’s intention was. But, I can tell you what mine would have been had I suggested such a topic to a student. My intention would have been two-fold, and it would have had very little to do with learning about the topic itself.
To show that the lack of a conclusion does not nullify the search.
To help a young person learn how to handle a search that has no real conclusion.
There are so many searches, journeys, adventures, and questions that have no real conclusion. No clear end. No solid answer. Well, in this life at least. But, what if we were to never search? What if we didn’t ask the questions or embark on the journeys? Oh how much learning we would miss! Naturally, we would miss those little side things we learn in the search. But, we would also miss learning about ourselves, discovering how we handle times with no answers.
I remember very little of that Urim and Thummim paper. I don’t recall what I did learn or how I managed to fill five to seven pages with something other than, “No one knows exactly what this was or how it was used.” I’m sure I have the paper stashed away somewhere in a keepsake tub where I could go back and re-read it. But, I don’t have to read it to recall the most valuable lessons gleaned from that research project. Just reading the names in daily Scripture reading jogs my memory! I learned that it’s okay to say, “I don’t know!” as long as I have tried. I learned that the lack of conclusion does not mean failure. And I learned that sometimes God takes us on a journey of searching just to remind us to trust Him that little bit more.
Are you searching for something that seems to have no answer? Oh, may it teach you to lean harder on the One who holds all the answers, even when He doesn’t share them with us.