The Ignorant Bliss of a Know-It-All

by Angie Washington on July 30, 2014

When we stomped off to mission school we knew we were headed to Bolivia. We knew the five-fold reach of our ministry would be: churches, bible schools, social outreaches, Bolivian missionaries sent out, and mass media productions. Our shiny vision statement listed everything in plural with big numbers. We knew that we knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, as they say, what our next few decades, heck, what the rest of our lives looked like.

Or so I thought.

The Ignorant Bliss of a Know It All darkened valley.docx

This November 1st marks 13 years in Bolivia. So much has changed in that relatively short span of time. I miss the ignorant bliss of being a know-it-all.

Right now as I walk through the valley-of-the-shadow one of the few certainties I have is the shadow of doubt.

See if you can identify a pattern as I share some of our journey.

We were pastors of a local church for 8 years. We are no longer the pastors.

From that church Bolivian missionaries have been sent out. The congregation is still connected to these sacrificial souls, yet we are not directly involved.

We ran a bible school program for over a decade during which time we helped start over 60 training centers throughout South America. We no longer oversee that program.

We led a series of leadership conferences attended by thousands throughout Bolivia and South America over the span of 12 years. We no longer do that.

We authored, translated, and published a number of books and biblical teaching material. We also made available online resources. We discontinued our production department.

Three things have survived the start-stop process that characterizes our efforts.

We founded an orphanage that has helped over 50 kids in the last 8 years. Fourteen kids still live in the House of Dreams. We decided to not accept new children.

We started a K-12 Christian school six years ago. Over 100 kids, the orphans and ours included, receive bi-lingual education from a Bolivian staff.

We purchased the town’s only bowling alley a few years back in hopes to create sustainability within Bolivia. We still hope to see positive results.

In some of the examples above the transition meant Bolivians now lead the operations. In other cases the programs simply stopped.  We were able to check off all five things we set out to do from the start. We should be ecstatic!

So why do I feel like crap? Why do I battle depression? Why does doubt feel like a noose around my soul’s throat?

The trade off was too big. Home life is strained. Our finances suffer under huge debt. Relationships have become difficult. I could go on with the list of stressful situations we face; I’ll leave the rest for my skype call counseling sessions.

The ancient story of the Hebrews who clamored for a king haunts my heart. They thought they asked for a good thing. Finally, God answered their prayers in the affirmative. He gives them a king, even though He knows they will be sorry. He knows the oppression they invite when they transfer the rule to human hands.

This shadow of doubt that hangs over my head tells me history repeats itself. Why should I think I would have been any wiser than those folks back then? I truly thought I asked God for a handful of really great stuff. He answered our prayers in the affirmative. Did He know we would be sorry?

King David wrote the psalm I have alluded to with my talk of shadows. Maybe if you are alongside me in a dark, shadowy time we might be comforted as we contemplate the truth of these words.

…though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me…
(Psalm 23:4)

Another scriptural reference to shadows speaks of an unexpected source of darkness.

This deconstruction has been a long, painful unclenching of the fists of control. Surrender thumps as a mandate, a warning of worse if not heeded. So maybe this shadow of death and doubt, as I relinquish and mourn the loss of these good works, comes not from the evil one. Or if it does, there may be a greater Good overshadowing the immediate struggles.

David as king was not God’s original plan, but He worked with it. Listen to the words of this warrior poet about a trustworthy shadow.

“David, when he fled from Saul into the cave: Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, Until these calamities have passed by.” (Psalm 57:1)

More verses about the Almighty’s shadow: Psalm 17:8 , Psalm 36:7, Psalm 63:7, Psalm 91:1

So darkness closes in and I can’t see the path. I walk slow and unsure, weary and wary. Maybe you are right here beside me, unseen but within ear-shot. This is me calling out to you. I extend to you solidarity in the hurt.


Are you going through a similar season in your life? Have you had to live through relinquishment and loss? In the interest of conversation please add your thoughts below in the comment section.

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About Angie Washington

Co-Founder, Editor of this collaborative blog site: A Life Overseas
  • Jessica W

    Brings to mind the song “Shadows” by David Crowder Band….

    Currently I am trying to figure out what I want to be when I’m grown up (I’m 27). I spent 3 years in another country, got a degree in Intercultural Studies (aka missions), and now live in yet another country with my husband who’s from here.

    I WANT to be a know-it-all 🙂 but your post reminds me maybe I just have to surrender and wait.

    • Marilyn Gardner

      Jessica I love your honesty. I love Angie’s as well. What I love about Angie’s article is it speaks to the bliss of being a know it all and idealist and then gives the flip side of when those things that were so surely a part of our identity and purpose change or are passed on and we grieve. It’s all of life lived between – the good and hard, the idealism and cynicism, the knowing when to hang on and knowing when to let go, knowing when to leave and when to stay. God is completely unpredictable and utterly reliable. Thanks Angie.

      • Sweet Marilyn… you always encourage me with such sincerity. You reiterate precisely the tensions being felt right now. You said, “God is completely unpredictable and utterly reliable.” Wow! Amen. Thank you so much, friend.

    • Jessica, I had never heard that song before; I am glad to have been able to find it on youtube. Yes! It is very applicable to what I attempt to express with this post. I remember the feelings of wanting to get on with things when I was about your age. It is wise for you to be open to the fact that God might have you to wait for a bit. Thanks for your comment!

  • Oh, Angie. I’m having a crap week of the heart. I started writing my post for next week and was going to write something light-hearted and instead what’s coming out is something similar to what you’re writing about costs and burdens. I’m sorry you’re a dark season carrying a load of doubt a lot of the time. I hear you.

    • Yep, I know what you mean about wanting to write something light-hearted. I, too, am sorry that you are still going through hardships. Thank you for hearing me – that helps. Peace.

  • Kay Bruner

    This spring and summer I’ve been living on two Robbie Seay Band songs: Rest, from the album Rich and Poor–which apparently nobody else loves enough to put up on YouTube, so just buy the album cuz it’s awesome–and his cover of Up To the Mountain. When I don’t understand what is going on, or why, or how I’m supposed to deal with it–sometime all I know is, I came here because He asked me to.

    • Hello Kay. I was able to find the song you mentioned on another site. Wow. Both of them are soulful and infused with depth. Thank you for sharing. And thank you for understanding – or better said, telling me that sometimes you don’t understand either. That really means so much to me.

    • Elizabeth Trotter

      “I came here because He asked me to.” Wow. Yes. Thank you for sharing that.

    • Shari Mottram

      I don’t know a lot of things………but I always come back to that one statement “because you asked me to”. That is a whole lot of hope, strength and encouragement right there.

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  • Angie Scott Weldy

    I am in the stage of “knowing” (in my head) that life will be rough at times if/when our family goes overseas but deep down apparently I think we’ll skirt the really hard stuff or fare better than most because it doesn’t scare me as much as I think it should. Stories like these that I read give me more food for thought. Thank you for your honesty. I really appreciate it.

    • Very, very deep down in the untapped reserves of my heart I really believe that things are going to work out for me. And who’s to say that however God sees fit to work it out won’t be more spectacular than my own original machinations? That would be fabulous, ya know?

      I don’t know that being scared is the key – I think being aware and humble is sufficient. Thanks for sharing with us about your stage in the journey. Enjoy it! 🙂

  • Rachel ‘Pieh’ Jones

    Thank you for sharing this. I think my take-away is the practical idea of skype sessions with a counselor or a mentor or someone. As you extend solidarity to us readers, we extend it back to you. Who is walking without scars? I think about my c-section scar often – it doesn’t affect my life anymore but if touched, it is still sensitive. Whether we are the walking wounded in this moment, or we have been in the past or we will be in the future, we need to know God’s presence will go with us and it also helps to know others are walking through that valley too.

    • Walking wounded – what a great term. Thanks for being kind to me Rachel. I have a c-section scar too that behaves in the same way. God’s presence, yes, amen.

    • Marilyn Gardner

      Love the example of the C-section scar and the walking wounded. yes.

  • Elizabeth Trotter

    Angie, it’s just so painful to know this season is so hard for you, when you do so much to help, comfort, and encourage others — me included.
    When we sing “Forever Reign” at church and get to the “You are light, when the darkness closes in,” I always pray, “God, please be the light when the darkness closes in.” It’s almost like I’m begging, afraid of what would happen if He is NOT light in the darkness. And today, I pray the same for you, that He will be light for you when the darkness closes in, that his Light will be enough in “dark places, when all other lights go out.”
    Love you.

    • Elizabeth, I appreciate your empathy. Thank you for entering into this pain with me through prayer and kind messages. I am so very glad God put our lives together in friendship. I love you too.

  • Richelle Wright

    hmmm… how about the ignorant bliss of the determined not to be a know-it-all-yet-failing-miserably-to-pull it-off-and-clueless-about-her-failing-for-the-longest-time? that’s the description of me those first few years. yikes! and while i might not have actually said much to people, when i think back to the things i thought and the attitudes i probably presented? wow!

    then there’s the another type of know-it-all – the one who just knows that if anyone could see what was really going on out of the public eye, supporters/ministry partners would be so disappointed in him/her as a missionary and so they only share the varnished truth and feel they must have an answer for every question. i’m so tempted to be that person so much of the time because it is scary to be as vulnerable as you’ve been with this piece. and it is terrifying to wonder if someone is going to see through you if you give in to that temptation.

    was thinking about the story of the man born blind in john 9. poor guy couldn’t win for losing. he finally is made whole, heads for the temple for probably the first time in his life and then because he won’t speak poorly to the pharisees of Jesus, a man he doesn’t know other than as the healer, he’s thrown out… and that probably means there goes his chance to finally enter the temple… meaning – have access to God… worship… sacrifice… be forgiven. when i try and imagine how hopeless and broken he must have felt… but then Jesus… Jesus hears this (and that blows my mind when i try and think about it… that God Incarnate limited Himself to have “hear” of something)… and then He sought out the man, talked to him, asked him… Jesus didn’t have to do any of that, but He did.

    He’ll do the same for us during our shadowy, outcast, flabbergasted, hopeless times. many prayers, dear one.

    • Ha! The description of yourself made me smile, Richelle. It is SO scary to be vulnerable! We’re supposed to be the ones with the answers, right? Ah – but there’s the rub. That’s the danger of thinking that we are sent to save the lost. Jesus saves. Only Him. It’s a fine line to walk in authenticity because character comes into question which leads people to wonder if the work is worth the investment of their donations. I get it. I mean, I am thinking similar thoughts about our work and wondering upon wondering where this is all going. I know you get what I am saying – even if it sounds like rambling. All that to say that I appreciate very much your empathy and your prayers. You are dear to me, too. Thanks for the example of the man in John 9. I hadn’t ever made that connection before – mind blowing indeed.

  • Carin Guthrie

    Wow. I envy your ability to write out heart angst so eloquently.

    When we head to the mission field, we really are full of endless possibilities and that we want to love people in Jesus name. Yet it gets so complicated and messy and we start to wonder where the assuredness went. Our stories are different but the struggle and the angst is the same. However our God is the same as well.

    I am blessed to call you friend.

    Marilyn, thank-you for “God is completely unpredictable and utterly reliable.” A blessed assurance today.

    • Carin, I am going to miss having you as fleshy-friend right here in Cochabamba! Yes, our God is the same – knowing Him more deeply, especially in these times of angst, is a precious treasure. Thank you for that reminder of truth. You are dear to me, friend.

  • YES! We are coming up on 13 years, too. And it looks so different for us than anything we started off with. I don’t know that I have anything to add, except sympathy and some understanding of where you are.

    • Phyllis, wow, it is comforting to know that you are at the same phase in your life as I am and that you understand. I took a peek at your blog – your children are precious! May the grace and peace of our God be with you in the Ukraine. Thanks for your message.

  • Signe Schu

    I am praying for you Angie! This post reminds me of a book called With: reimagining your relationship with God that was recommended on this very blog. Be assured, God is with you, as He was with Job when he suffered the loss of all things, and know it all friends to comfort him. I wish I could come over and sit with you, but I will sit in prayer for you instead. Thank you for opening your heart.

    • Signe, to know that you are praying for me really touches my heart. Really. I appreciate that so very much. Yes, I am learning to rest in the assurance that His presence is sufficient. Thanks for reminding me of that today. And thank you for treating my heart with such gracious kindness when I opened it up – I was nervous about the response. You gave me confidence. Peace to you.

  • oh how i love this a million ways. the honesty, the angst, the real. thank you for being a voice of authenticity here in this space. i love you and your work and your wrestling . . . .

    • Hearing that affirmation from you, Laura, means the world to me. The decision to write right where I am instead of writing a lighter piece was not an easy one. Learning to pull down the mask and let people see the real me is terrifying! But knowing I have people like you in my corner to love me no matter what helps tremendously. I love you too.

  • Patty Ovington

    Wow! I just came across this site and read this post and all the comments. I feel the hurt, the unknowing and the confusion and it starts my heart and my thoughts to tumble all over. I am 55. I started life as a young married woman going to Bible school, then off to Mexico for 8 years, back to the States for 12 years pastoring a church with my husband, then back to Mexico and now I am in Bolivia still in ministry. I can so relate to all of you though in so many ways! I feel like now I am on the other side. My 5 kids are raised and starting families of their own. They are living all around the world doing amazing things. The valleys I have gone through that I thought I may never surface from and yet, here I am feeling whole, and full of gratitude for a God who never left me nor forsook me but carried me through to forgiveness and freedom. My heart breaks for all of you who are sharing so openly and I want to hug and encourage each of you. I may never meet any of you but I want you to know that God sees your struggles and they will grow you and make you more able to be used by Him. Just keep laughing, crying and being vulnerable. And maybe throwing on some Motown tunes and dancing your way out of the blues. Keep on keeping on and know that you are being cheered on by a great cloud of witnesses!

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