The Art of Asking
I have a special place in my heart for heretics and oddballs, misfits and malcontents. Always have. I remember the first time I saw the movie Joan of Arc, I thought she was amazing, not necessarily because I thought she was right, but because she thought she was right and at the very least, sincere. It wasn’t just a petty argument she was waging, it was war. And ultimately she was alone with her principles, burning at the stake.
That takes huevos.
Those who question, who rock the boat, who ask “why?” are always burned at the stake in one way or another.
I remember one of our (my and my husband’s) first years working with youth kids at a church, we had a “fellowship night” — basically a night where we hang out with each other and have fun in the safe confines of Christianity. I was sitting with a group of girls and asked them the token Christian question, “So what is God doing in your life?” The girls went around and shared their teenaged woes until it came to one girl, who had recently moved to town after her parents’ split, to live with her dad and his new wife. She looked straight at me and said, “I don’t even know if God is real. I don’t even know if He cares. I don’t know what I believe. I don’t read my Bible and I hate living here.” I looked straight at her and responded, “That is the most awesome thing I’ve ever heard.”
Honestly, in that setting and in almost any sitting I had ever experienced, it was plain awesomeness to hear a 15 year-old question everything. I knew things would only get better for her from there, because she dared to ask. She dared to challenge everything she’d been taught because, quite frankly, it didn’t match up with how her life had turned out.
Another one of my favorite “heretics” is a modern fellow, Rob Bell. I put this label in quotes because I’m sarcastic. I have come to believe that the face of God can be seen just about everywhere, and mostly where I’ve been told I’ll never see Him, so pardon me if I think this guy doles out amazing morsels mixed in with crap. Reading tonight I came to a chapter about questions:
Questions, no matter how shocking or blasphemous or arrogant or ignorant or raw, are rooted in humility. A humility that understands that I am not God. There is more to know. . . . Maybe that is who God is looking for — people who don’t just sit there and mindlessly accept whatever comes their way.
In my church experience I was virtually handed a manual about God, tucked nicely into chapters and lived out in rules and regulations that supposedly made me different from everyone else. I hated it even then, but fear kept me rooted, but the questions swirled. They still do.
Why do we fear questions?
Does every question have an answer?
Is an unanswered question dangerous?
Are we asking the right questions?
Who says your answer is the right one?
If I’m sincerely wrong, am I still wrong?
It’s not about asking questions for the sake of questions:
Central to the Christian experience is the art of questioning God. Not belligerent, arrogant questions that have no respect for our maker, but naked, honest, vulnerable, raw questions, arising out of the awe that comes from engaging the living God.
~Rob Bell, heretic
The last few years everything I’ve been taught has been tested: marriage, divorce, child-rearing, money, politics, religion, friendships, sex, black/white and all the gray in between. And most of these subjects have a list of questions attached to them that make me want to hide under the covers, because I haven’t found answers yet for most of them. Are there answers? I hope so, because it makes me feel better, but then again, can I live without answers?
The Christian faith is mysterious to the core. It is about things and beings that ultimately can’t be put into words. Language fails. And if we do definitively put God into words, we have at that very moment made God something God is not.
I suppose it’s not that there aren’t answers to everything, but sometimes we are not capable of grasping them. They elude us, our intellectual and emotional capabilities — they are unfathomable.
Yet we keep asking.
We must have been designed to ask.