Saturday, March 7, 2015

Loving the Questions

"A Great Mystery"
- Morning at the Desert Retreat House -

From time to time various people will respond to one of my blog articles, sometimes challenging me, more often raising questions about what I have written.  The other day I had an online conversation with one of my blog readers who lamented the fact that he had "lost his faith." He told me how he had grown up with all the right answers about God and faith, prayer and the church, and now he has come to doubt everything he once held as bedrock truth. 

I told my online friend that instead of losing his faith maybe he has come to a point were he can really find his faith- a deeper faith, a greater wisdom. 

I have been thinking a lot about "doubt" lately and have concluded that people often confuse their doubts with their questions. In fact, I think for the most part, when someone expresses a doubt about their "faith," they are really asking deeper questions, and why shouldn't they? 

After all, whenever we use words or concepts or engage in ideas about "God" or a "Higher Power" or the meaning of  "transcendence," we can do nothing but ask questions because "God" is a mystery, a Great Riddle that can never be solved - truth and wisdom can never be pinned down.

As I sit in my office writing this morning's blog article, I am surrounded by shelves full of books - Bibles and catechisms, theology books, prayer books and books about spirituality. Some may say that these are books that contain the answers about the meaning of life. I have come to believe they are books that help me ask the questions about life and faith and what it means to be on a spiritual journey. 

In fact I am looking at one of those books right now. It is a "catechism" book, like those I grew up with as a child.  It asks questions about God and faith and then goes on to spell out rather concise (and sometimes) glib little answers to the questions that are posed (as a boy I  had to memorize these answers and be tested on them by my teachers). 

As I browse through this "catechism" book, all sorts of questions arise in me about the answers that are provided. For example:

Q. What do we learn about God from reading the Bible?
A. We learn that God is the Almighty Father, creator of heaven and earth.

This raises so many questions in me that it would take me the rest my life to ask them all. Is God really an almighty person, a Father? Isn't this just a metaphor?  How does God create the heaven and earth-certainly not in six days?  How does all this take into account evolutionary theory- the findings of contemporary physics? 

It's not that I doubt this neat little catechism answer- it's just that it raises questions in me, more questions than answers, and I have come to love the questions far more than the answers.

The poet Rainer Marie Rilke once advised a young student:

Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart
and try to love the questions themselves as if they were
locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.
Don't search for answers, which could not be given to you now,
because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is to live everything.
Live the questions now

Such great wisdom for the spiritual journey, such powerful teaching for anyone on a quest for deeper truth and greater wisdom. Don't look for the answers, but rather love the questions. Live with the questions. Live the questions now.