I have come to enjoy The Habit Podcast, with host Jonathan Rogers. I really recommend it for writers and would-be writers. He interviews writers in various genres. Today I listened to one with Lore Ferguson Wilbert, who recently published A Curious Faith. The book is about the questions God and we asks.
I am enamored with the statement “Live the Questions.” Rainer Maria Rilke. The full quotation from his “Letters to a Young Poet.”
“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.”
First, know what the questions are. Question what the questions are.
J Vernon McGee used to say: I saw a sign that read “Jesus is the answer.” I say, “What’s the question?” (Jesus is not the answer to every question, like “how should I feel about the Internal Revenue Service?”) and He’s definitely the answer to questions that are transitory.
Second, Live without insisting on answers.
Get to know the questions more. Get to know why you are asking them. Get to know why other people are asking them, who in the past asked them, why they asked them, and if your questions are really the same as them.
Do not expect easy answers. The questions that matter don’t have easy answers anyway. They may not have hard answers. They may not even have answers.
Accept that it might be years before you are satisfied with the answers, and if you are satisfied now, there may be something you’re missing. Not maybe. There is.
Enjoy the ambiguity, enjoy that if someone asks you a questions you can say I don’t know (next to impossible for me as a college professor, but it happens).
Enjoy the ambivalence and resting in the trust God does have the answers but doesn’t reveal them all to us. In fact, we are often promised we will know everything in eternity, but I don’t know about that. Most of what perplexes us will disappear so they won’t be an issue for us.
Enjoy that maybe we are not supposed to know them now and that we are learning. Enjoying learning is really hard for a lot of people. I know. My job is to encourage and facilitate learning, and sometimes it feels like they are resistant because they fear their brains can only hold so much and the other “stuff” will spill out or get bumped out. (It won’t—that is not at all how the brain works, thank the Lord!)
So here is a question to live. After Adam and Eve sinned*, we have this exchange:
9 Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”
10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”
Who told you you were naked? Genesis 3:11.
Who told you?
Who are you listening to?
Where are you getting your information, and your information about yourself?
What are they telling you?
Who are you believing?
Why are you listening to them?
Is the message you are listening to making you afraid? Making you feel naked? How is the message you are hearing making you think about yourself? And more importantly, God?
*I realize not everyone reading this accepts the historical truth of Adam and Eve and the Genesis account. It is perhaps true for you as myth, as a valid human story.