“It’s not brave to have answers. It’s brave to watch them get erased, obliterated, rubbed out with a half-chewed cheap eraser on the end of a #2 pencil, the kind that leaves black nasty smudges in the wake of that math formula that should have contained, as promised, a solvable response on the right side of that equals sign.” ~ Mandy Steward
We were sitting in a random Chick-Fil-A off of I-95—me, my husband, and Dan. Lemonade and milkshakes and that piercing sunlight that makes the treetops glow orange in the evening air.
As other “internet” meetings have played out, I had a feeling things would roll along smoothly. And it did. And Drew, my husband (who doesn’t tweet and rarely facebooks) came along and there was much laughter. The conversation was warm. We were talking about what we were reading these days.
Drew shared his stack of “current reads,” which is a mile high. Some of the titles were packed full of words that I don’t know how to pronounce, but Dan seemed to keep up with Drew’s titles.
I was relieved. The boys had something to talk about.
To reciprocate making fun of his Bible-nerd book collection, Drew outed my secret love for Sci-Fi.
Yay…… The boys had something else to talk about. Suddenly I was double-teamed, and if you know anything about Dan, you know he’s a fist-bumper. Let me just say that Drew got two fist-bumps out of the evening and I only got one.
(Yes, Dan, I counted.)
To move the attention away from my secret Sci-Fi addiction, I asked Dan what he was reading. He told us about book that was called something like “answering all the God-questions,” which addresses those confusing questions from the Bible, like why does God allow war and why did He tell the Israelites to commit genocide by wiping out the Canaanites?
My brain lit up. Spiritual questions have always bugged me. I like to understand things, know the Why’s and How’s and When’s. And oh do I have questions: Why is it taking so long for us to become parents? What is the great purpose for this delay?
But something jumped in me when Dan talked about this book. My mental knee-jerk reaction was, “Don’t answer the questions! You’ll kill the mystery!!”
Where did that come from? From me? The girl who demands answers and hates surprises and must have it all figured out?
Yes. Something fundamental had changed in me, which I’ve been wrestling with for longer than know. And just that morning I’d been building pages in my art journal that talked about the mystery. That talked about how Spiritual Mystery is a journey, an invitation to discovery, a rebellion of sorts. And that life, in all it’s profundity and mystery, is to be embraced in the confusing areas—the hard areas—the blind spots that we can’t see and can’t prepare for. Those are the moments of deepest discovery, and if we don’t learn to lean into the questions we won’t be true pilgrims on this Spiritual path.
So now I am letting my questions accompany me on this quest. (Funny how questions and quest have the same root.) My questions are my companions on this quest for Truth, my travelling partners, my guides. They are the arrows that point me in the direction of discovery.
And I’ll ask you a question as you and I walk together today:
What questions are you walking with on your quest to find Truth?
Thanks, Mary, for your article. Questions that continue to pop up in my walk are Job’s question of “Why do bad things happen to good people?” and Habakuk’s questions “why do good things happen to bad people?” I’m content in the mystery… but am ever searching for words to describe the mystery to others!
I have a love/hate relationship with those questions, Sharon. grrrrr I feel your pain. Maybe one day we’ll understand why it rains on both the righteous and the wicked. For now, I’m learning to find satisfaction in the mystery itself. 🙂
Yes, Mandy. I agree! Questions keep the mystery, and I think, are part of faith. If God is God and we are His creations, surely there are some things that are beyond our understanding. Otherwise, what kind of God would we be worshiping?
This reminds me of a sermon I just listened to from my old church. It was on Job. And how Job never got the answer to his question of why. If you are interested in listening/watching, here’s the link: http://www.blackhawkchurch.org/sunday/this-weeks-message/message-archive/?sermon_id=140.
My main question these days is “What is God calling me to do with my life?” And I think, I will not get an answer about the destination, but only the next step I should take.
Yes! Great thoughts, Stephanie. In my original draft, I included a sentence that could be an entire post in itself: If I’ve got “It” all figured out, then “It” is too small for me. I couldn’t find a place for that sentence to flow, but that was a core revelation for me in this process. And, yes, poor Job. The most heartbreaking point of his story is that he never got answers. We sometimes miss that fact because the opening scene explains the Who’s & Why’s of the whole story. But Job never saw that side of his story. Ouch…
(on a side note, can I recommend a rather unconventional approach to God’s will for our lives? Have you heard of “Decision-Making and the Will of God” by Friesen? It’s worth the read.)
Sounds like I missed a party. 🙂
In all seriousness, I agree. I think there are some things we won’t understand until we are able to ask God.
That said, I always ask myself a couple questions when getting into the questions.
1. Will finding the answer make me a better Christian?
2. Is it relevant to my faith?
3. Is it a theological debate that doesn’t change my belief?
Example: Was the Bethleham star up high in the sky or was it low to the ground? I got into that question once and I just finally said, “Wait. It doesn’t change a thing!”
And to think, we men especially, can get heated over some of those stupid theological debates.
Maybe that needs to be our question: What does it matter? Will the answer really change anything?
Wow, Duane. I’ve never thought about it like that. I need to take a step back and look hard at my personal questions, and ask myself if the answers will make a difference. Whew.
(And, yes, the fellas can get heated. I spent 3 1/2 years hearing those debates at Seminary. What an experience!)
I love love love this post Mandy. Part of faith for me is not knowing the answers to all the questions. After all … “faith is being certain of that which we cannot see.” If we know all the answers – where does our faith come in?
I also think that God is so big and so mysterious that we can never know all the answers. And the moment we think we have it all figured out … well, it’s at that moment that we put God in a box. And God doesn’t fit in a box – no matter what shape or size.
So I try to embrace the questions. Try to see God in the midst of them. And do my very best to accept that I just cannot know the answers …
Thanks thanks thanks, Crystal. 🙂 Let’s toss the boxes aside and wrap our hearts around the Hugeness.
I must say that I’m finding such freedom after coming to these conclusions. I guess that’s what the whole “believing” thing is, right? Believing even when it doesn’t all make sense. Ahhh… I feel like a teenager again.
Mandy I LOVED this post and I really love your art journal entry. I’m one who always wants the answers; wants to figure out the whys and the hows. But lately I’m learning to embrace the mystery in the non-answers. Thanks for sharing
Makeda! Hey girl!! Glad we are both embracing some mystery in our lives. I’m with you.