Living in the Questions

questioning childAs a mother, I am well acquainted with questions:  “When is supper?” or “Why can’t I go?”  As an instructor, I often encourage students to ask questions so that they can clarify their understanding, especially as any communication between human beings is prone to misunderstanding.  Our question-asking nature carries over to the big questions of life, like “Where was God?”  or “Why did God allow this to happen?”  But by always needing an answer to our question “Why?” we place limits on the answers that might come and don’t even realize we are asking the wrong questions.

Author Dani Shapiro writes in her memoir called Devotion about what it was like growing up with an orthodox Jewish father and an atheist mother.  After the tragic death of her father and the unhappy remaining years of her mother’s life, she began to question what she herself believed and why, especially when her young son started asking about God.  Shapiro felt hollow when she provided a variety of answers about what different religions had to say about God.  And her son refused to be satisfied with those textbook answers– he wanted to know what she knew and felt about God.

So Shapiro says, “I brought God into our home by living in the questions, not trying to come up with an answer.”  I was intrigued by her idea of “living in the questions,” being content to ponder God and his character and qualities without having to explain the mystery.

Our scientific method-based world expects to quantify the unquantifiable, and in doing so, it does away with what our human hearts long for – hope.  Hope doesn’t exist alongside hard data.  It is fraternal twins with faith, and the little brother of the greatest of all qualities, Love, because “Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love” (NAS). 

I’ve always thought that it was quest of humanity to explain and understand the world and this mortal life, but as I’ve considered it, I see our greatest challenge is not explaining and understanding the world and life, but learning to live with the uncertainties and the inexplicable events that make up life, confident that we are loved and accepted by One greater than ourselves.

It’s not comfortable living in the questions, not being able to provide answers about why certain tragic events happen.  But other times, not being able to explain how a wonderful circumstance came to pass is also an occasion for awe and for acknowledging that there must be a God who treasures creation and desires relationship with that creation.  Explaining a faith-building situation would detract from the mystical aspect that is a part of our human experience and would diminish the hope that builds faith and leads to love – love of humanity and love of God. Life’s mysteries + hope = faith and love

By not trying to come up with answers, we can learn through our life experiences what author Anne Lamott says is true:  “Love is sovereign, and grace will always be sufficient.” As we grow more comfortable with not knowing, with not having all the answers, we rest more firmly in faith on the unchanging character of our loving God.

~by Nan Kuhlman

1 comment so far

  1. Pat on

    wow,thanks Nan.very timely as im going through some “whys” of my own at the moment

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