Reflectionary

Loving the Questions

Today I had lunch with a friend from my theatre wannabe days. She is a professional Stage Manager, and I love to see her when she is home in City By the Sea. First, she’s fun and funny. Second, she likes to cook!

Last night I wasn’t sure we would be able to keep our lunch date, as a heavy snow was predicted and there was the possibility of a snow day for the children. But the heavy precipitation never materialized. I arrived in a light snow to the smell of potato-and-leek soup, which was accompanied by delicious salad and bread, then followed by a brownie with a little coffee ice cream and a cup of good coffee.

It’s good to feel cared for when you spend most of your time caring for others.

And just to confirm the sense of being in the right place at the right time, I found the following quote taped to her bathroom mirror:

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Sometimes it’s hard being a Christian pastor married to someone who doesn’t believe in God. Most days I take a long and cosmic view. For some reason we were called into each other’s lives. Pure Luck is as dedicated a seeker as I have ever known. And I understand, although I do not agree with, his conclusions about God.

But last night, he was watching a movie, The God Who Wasn’t There For some reason, it really bothered me to see the DVD playing on his computer. It took until today to realize that what bothers me is not our disagreement but the notion of certitude on either side of the argument.

You see, I don’t know where God is, or what God looks like. I seek a God located everywhere and nowhere. I serve a God located deep inside me, yet farther away than I can ever imagine. I love a God who knows my name, but whose name I cannot really know.

I resist the idea that anyone can disprove God by failing to find evidence of the historical Jesus.

We may have some in the future. We may “live along some distant day into the answer.”

In the middle of the night, my ear sharply painful and my heart sorely troubled, I sat up with a hot bunny pack on my head and read some blogs. I found these words at A Church for Starving Artists:

Call me stupid or naive or even Not Really Christian. But I don’t believe it’s a fantasy to expect Christians to love those with whom we disagree. Really love them. It’s the only way we’ll get past the Big Issues.

When I reacted to the DVD, I was forgetting to love. For that, I am sorry, not only to Pure Luck (who knows it already), but also to God. I’m not doing a very good job of representing when I forget to love. And I really do love the questions themselves, most of the time. That’s what separates us in churches and denominations, a lack of love for the questions, a lack of living the questions.

In the lectionary passage this week, I’m most interested in this:
They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. (Mark 1:21-22, NRSV)

What did that authority sound like? Wasn’t Jesus forever raising questions and leaving us to puzzle out the answers?

I believe he was.

8 thoughts on “Loving the Questions”

  1. I also live with a lovely man who is unsure and may never feel the need to begin a faith journey. For me, like you, it matters not. All I can do is hope that he sees what faith does for me in my life, and want more. I see him struggle with so much and know that if he had faith to rely on, things might make so much more sense to him, but that is up to him. God is patient and always waiting. I’ve put it into His hands. Thanks for sharing your story.

  2. Garrison Keillor tells of the good Lutheran children of Lake Wobegone who go away to college & the Cities & come home athiests. “But, of course, it is a Lutheran God they don’t believe in,” he says. Maybe you & Pure Luck at least disbelieve the same god.
    I used to like the Rilke quote, especially the part about “live along some distant day into the answer”, and the wisdom of growing into understanding.
    But now I’m drifting into the “Question Skepticism” camp, and am as dubious about sanctifying the questioner as such as I am the smug know-it-all corpses who know everything except what matters.
    I know too many who make a virture out of their doubt & question-asking, but not because they really want an answer, but as a dodge to keep them from confronting the Truth (it takes one to know one).
    Jesus promised that if you ask, it’ll be given unto you, seek & you’ll find. So I see no particular virtue in perpetual questioning if you aren’t really looking for an answer.

  3. Paul, thanks for those thoughts. My love for the questions, I hope, is not an excuse for failing to reach a conclusion, but rather a feeling that our understanding ought to be always unfolding, not reaching a certain point and never varying.
    I think it’s fair to say that the God Pure Luck thinks most Christians believe in is *not* the God in whom I believe.

  4. Often sought and rarely found are the wellsprings of Truth. They are every bit as common as the Holy Grail and just as easy to stumble upon. Is Truth in what you see with your eyes? Can you feel Truth on your skin like sunlight or cup it in your own two hands? Or does Truth enter instead through your ears, carried along on words or perhaps in the notes of music? Is Truth like a fine metal smelted in the fires of thought deep in your mind and then hammered into strong armor and mighty weapons to be wielded in the outer world? Is Truth found in what I feel? Is it hidden there in the dark folds of fear or the warm veils of love? Is it in the bitter draughts of hatred or the radiance of joy? Is Truth in experience or perhaps in the memory of experience? Is it in my memories and experience and thoughts? Is it in yours? Is it perhaps in the thoughts and memories and experiences of others? Is Truth as ephemeral as a mayfly or does it improve with age like a fine wine? And if I hold up my Truth to yours and they do not match where then is Truth and who will judge it? Some people seek for Truth. Some find it unseeking. Some neither seek nor find it. It is not for virtue’s sake nor in the expectation of all answers revelation that I question. I do it because it is my nature to do so. Doubtless it is the nature of others to forgo such a seemingly Sisyphusian stuggle and decide at the last upon Truth. Let those who decide thus build not their mighty fortress too high for like our own earth the stones of Truth have been known to tremble more than once.

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