- What do I say to that?
- Have I preached this before?
- What would make this right?
- What am I expected to do? What should I do? (And what do I do when these answers differ?)
Some questions can be answered in a day: Does she need a visit? Who has gifts to teach that class? Am I able to lead another lock-in? We gather information, weigh our options, and decide what we think. We check another item off of our resolve-this list and move on.
Other questions arrive with plans to stay indefinitely: What does God want me to do with my life? What part of me needs transforming? Who do I exclude? Questions like these come with full baggage, ready to take up lifelong residency if necessary. While they might annoy us at times, and alter our plans, they also bring gifts. They remind us of what matters most. They help us learn and grow. These questions take us to new places and deepen our faith.
In his book Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke pleads with a young artist “. . . to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are 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.” *
Rilke’s advice to not seek answers may be counterproductive for the first installment of an advice blog. But perhaps his words are a wise reminder as we kick-off what we hope will be conversation that matters. Some of our biggest questions need to be shared because these questions can lead us to life—and they might lead others there as well. From his time as a twelve-year-old who was questioning leaders in the Temple to “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” on the cross, Jesus’ questions fill the gospels. He used questions to teach his followers and those questions continue to enrich faith communities. Asking leads to discoveries we might otherwise miss. When we ask together, we find community with each other.
So what are the questions you are living with these days? What has taken up residence, made you wonder, and promises a long stay? Would you send a few of these to: firstname.lastname@example.org so that our conversation can begin? May this Dear Addie blog become a place of conversation and community for us as we share questions and discoveries. (And if your pressing question right now is whether or not you can lead another lock-in, send it in. We’ll talk about it, too.)
*Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1962), 35.