Today, I am 50. And I Know Jack-Diddly Squat by Karen Leslie Hernandez

karen hernandezYou’d think after all these years I would know, right? I would be sure. I could walk comfortably, touting that I am certain, as so many others my age do. The reality is however, I still don’t know. I am very unsure. I am incredibly uncertain.

At 50, I think I have more questions now than ever before. Many times I have moments of panic that challenge what I feel deeply and truly. Moments that challenge my faith and my very understanding of my own existence. Moments where I lose faith in humanity, in my friends, in my family, and in myself.

Yet, maybe that is where the wisdom is. Because if I pretended to never be afraid or uncertain, I would never challenge what I think I know. I would sit, uncomfortably, in unauthentic belief. What a pity that would be.

What am I really thinking…?

Does God cry?

Why do so many suffer?

Aliens? Yes? No? So many have seen things… what don’t we know?

What will happen if animals keep becoming extinct?

Was I reincarnated, because sometimes I feel when I meet someone for the first time, I swear they are someone I have known an eternity?

Why is feminism such a dirty word?

What is heaven really like?

Is there a heaven?

Am I a bad Christian for wondering if there’s a heaven?

Am I unrealistic to believe in a being that I cannot see or touch, but, that I feel, hear, and witness in everything around me?

Am I really a lost Christian, as I have been told so many times, because I believe that there are more paths than one, to the divine?

Why are women still viewed as property?

Are there sea monsters?

Why do so many people have peanut allergies?

Is Big Foot real?

Can the earth just stop rotating? Fall off its axis?

I am going to be a grandmother. Someday!

My mind is exhausting and as you can see, my thought process deteriorates rapidly. The point is though, I never stop. I wonder. All the time.

But, here’s what I do know.

It is an honor to be living. Why God put me on the earth at this time in history, I may never clearly understand. The privilege of living however, is just that. I appreciate every breath I am given. Every moment of sight, sound and taste. Everything around me. I continually marvel at how not only God’s creation, but how the Universe, sustains us, in so many ways.

There is more that I am sure of – I don’t know who God is. Or, what God is. Or, if God is a woman or a man. I have no sense of what God looks like. Or, how God was created. I wonder if God really created the heavens and the earth, or, if She had help. I wonder if He really is all knowing. Because if She is, then a lot happens that I don’t understand.

I believe. I believe in God. I believe I am following the right path. I believe there’s a gift in my turbulent past. I believe that when we take our deepest challenges, we thread them bare, we expose them, we see them, we feel them – that is what heals. That is what keeps us alive and thriving. That is what keeps us real and grounded and able. That is what leads to integrity and hope. More than anything, I believe in grace. Grace, although extremely difficult with humans, is abundant with God. He grants us grace every day. She gives us grace when we are most undeserving. Because that is what grace is.

I look at our future and I am afraid. Daesh is just getting started. Violence in the United States is rapidly rising. Political firestorms and party lines are increasingly polarizing. Climate change is apparent. Faith is challenged. Wars are raging. Droughts are killing. Genocides are verging. Natural disasters are shattering. Food is unavailable. Guns are firing. Animals are dying. People have no homes, education, jobs, livelihoods. Forgiveness is forgotten. Our planet is in peril. And inside every single one of us, our rage, our sense of being, our very notion for living – is wounded, challenged, and battered. Where can this lead?

I have no answers. What I can say is that in all this, there is the notion of hope. That hope is based, at least for me, on faith. Faith that we, as humans, will choose soundly. Faith that we will lead by example. Faith that we can and will love – Love each other, and more, love our own selves. Because it is, I believe, the hatred we have for others, that is born of the hatred and the contempt we hold for ourselves. This is what has brought us to this time of choice – we either choose humanity, or, we choose the alternative.

I choose humanity. I choose grace. I choose forgiveness. I choose love. This may sound a bit Kum ba yah, I know, but, I am OK with that. My sound choice may stem from 50 years of learning and all I have been blessed to live through, but, it also is my choice because I believe it. I believe that my faith guides my love. And my love guides my choices. It’s all connected. Kum ba yah, indeed.

Since my birth 50 years ago in San Francisco, California, the earth has orbited the sun 50 times. The sun has risen and set, 18,250 times since July 29, 1966. I wonder if I will be blessed enough to see another 18,250 sunsets. If I do, I may be more confused that I am now. I may be angrier than I am now. I may love more than I do now. And, I may even be wiser than I am now.

So many questions, so much I do not know, and so many more years of learning that will grace my journey. I may be 50 today, but, in reality, I know Jack-Diddly Squat. Maybe in another 50 years, I will at least know Jack Diddly.

Karen Leslie Hernandez is a Theologian and interfaith activist. With a focus in Christian-Muslim Understanding, as well as religious fundamentalism and extremism, Karen is the only theologian who is a Latina and a United Methodist, doing this type of theological work in the US. She has published with several media outlets including the Women’s United Nations Report Network, The Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue/Studies, the Interfaith Observer, and she is the only Christian to publish an ongoing Op-Ed Column with OnIslam out of Cairo, Egypt. She loves to teach and last year designed and taught an Interfaith Dialogue workshop with Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago. Karen currently lives in San Francisco, is consulting with the United Religions Initiative, is an Ambassador with Parliament of the World’s Religions, and she also does Domestic Violence Faith Advocacy work across the US.

8 thoughts on “Today, I am 50. And I Know Jack-Diddly Squat by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

  1. “Faith that we can and will love – Love each other, and more, love our own selves.” My faith is that we can … but whether we will or not remains for me an open question. I personally am not optimistic, but I continue to imagine, desire, and struggle for a better world in the knowledge that what will happen in the future is unknown. And I hope I am wrong!!!

    Happy Birthday!


  2. Hi Karen, Happy Birthday!

    You said: “I choose humanity. I choose grace. I choose forgiveness. I choose love.”

    Romantic love, is sometimes hard to cope with, that is, if we think about it. However our instincts seem to know what it’s all about deep down and how to handle it. So if we can work out love between two people via instinct, maybe we can learn to love each other as a community of souls from the heart rather than the head.

    On the climate change you mention — right now solar energy is more inexpensive and more effective than ever before. Each day the sun sends enough energy to serve the planet’s energy needs for an entire year. We have a lot of work to do but we are moving more and more toward a clean energy future. That’s going to happen, because it must. Happily what’s good for the environment turns our to be good for the economy, and because of that, more and more money is being invested in solutions connected to clean energy.


  3. Happy solar return. You can, you know, just invent temporary answers to all those questions and as you keep moving with our planet, you can find new answers. You can also decide that some questions are unanswerable and that, well, maybe some are no longer worth asking because you’ve got a whole new set of questions. Sometimes asking is better than answering.


  4. Happy Birthday Karen! When you were born, I was already 28 yrs old. Many of the questions are familiar! Now I have more questions, and have decided they are all flowers on the path to wisdom. Enjoy! People without questions are unconscious.

    Birthday hugs and chocolate.


  5. Your piece made my day! I just came from being with pre-teen writers – 6th -8th in Sept – and they performed. Talk about questions! There’s so much they don’t know, but they KNOW what they like. Their writing copied styles of fiction they admire. Everyone knew exactly who they’d want to write a wonderful thank you cared to (living or dead). We’d read examples of offering 365 Thank Yous. They DIDN’T want to look up as they read. One boy TRYING to “argue” with adults about why they should stop saying video games are not good for kids sunk lower and lower almost hiding behind the podium, but he HAD an opinion and he was going to voice it to a roomful of parents. One amazing tall smart poet had a panic attack and said, I can’t get up front. We experimented with strategies to get over the fear, but in the end we headed for the bathroom and she sobbed. I didn’t know why and I’m not sure she did either. But her poem, a take-off on George Ella Lyon’s “Where I’m from”- free on her website to be used as an exercise, was all about the joys and challenges of her life from playing chess to being first chair in her orchestra. Life is full of puzzles. Thanks for naming them and what you DO know.


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