There was a time when I fancied myself a front-row sitter. On Sunday evenings I’d hop on down to that youth group room and place myself front and center, ready to lead worship or pray aloud at a moment’s notice. With a lifetime of Sunday school under my belt, I was fairly sure I knew every answer to every question life had to offer. And that answer was Jesus. Or prayer. Or Jesus. Or prayer.
Actually, sometimes they were interchangeable.
How will we overcome drugs and sexual temptation? Jesus and Prayer.
What good excuse can I use for missing curfew again? Prayer and Jesus.
At 16, these were pretty great answers, and they still are. I can’t tell you how many times a hectic prayer and whispered, “Oh, please Jesus!” seemed to get me out of a tough spot. But somewhere in my 20s, theology studies, a shattered mind and a broken world left me wondering who exactly Jesus was. How could I manage a mumbling prayer when I couldn’t seem to find God anywhere?
I didn’t have the answers anymore, or at least not the right ones. Instead, I found safe harbour in the back row, hand no longer raised but anxiously writing more questions than answers in the margins of my Bible, afraid to even ask them. Who was allowed to have doubts, anyway? And isn’t that what questions were: great big storm clouds of doubt?
And doubt, in all its scary glory, followed me everywhere.
Even now in our life and work overseas, I can’t help but ask myself, “Aren’t we ministry professionals? Shouldn’t we have all the answers?!”
My sister and I recently chatted about parables, and how insane some of these stories sounded. Jesus spoke with vivid imagery and startling plot points to illustrate God’s truth, to describe divine doctrine in earthly terms. And still, He often left the disciples and those who followed Him from town to town scratching their heads. You can almost hear them sigh…
What are You on about, Jesus?
What is it You’re doing?
Where are You going?
When will You come back?
How long must we wait?
And in one instance, when Peter demands an explanation for one such perplexing parable, Jesus replies, “Are you still so dull?” (Matthew 15:16, NIV).
One can’t help but chuckle at Jesus’ own question to His followers, but the implication still stings.
What is it we’re not getting, Lord? Can’t You make this all a bit clearer? Our world is chaotic, violent; can’t You fix that? My friend is sick; can’t You heal her? We’re losing our way; can’t You soften the load?
Not so long ago I laid a bunch of my own questions out to a friend and counselor, questions that I’d been asking God for quite some time and still didn’t seem to see or hear an answer.
“Maybe His gift to you is not in the answers,” she told me. “Maybe it’s the mystery. Maybe He’s allowing you the gift of sitting in that dissonance of not knowing the answers, or even needing them.”
As tempted as I am to answer – or to demand an answer from Him – I realised with no small amount of irony that yes, we are still that dull. I am still that dull. He’s not offering me all the answers, for what would I do with them even if I had them? Perhaps obedience has less to do with certainty or foreknowledge than it does with faith and understanding, a hopeful sort of love.
Maybe the answers are the questions themselves, and the person whom we ask and who receives all our fears, our doubts, our wonderings.
To whom else can we go?
Peter asked this once, and I think it all the time. There is simply no one else who can even touch the question of life and death, sin and salvation. It is my soul’s comfort, my heart cry, the reason for the hope that lies within me amid every question ever.
You are the answer, Jesus.
What questions are you asking God lately? Is he giving you answers, or asking you to rest in the mystery?