Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Monday, May 30, 2011

Living the Questions

Rainer Maria Rilke has a very powerful verse that goes like this… “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 the 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. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer”

“Have patience with everything unresolved. . . live the questions”.   It is advice with which I am struggling now more than ever; even as I see, more clearly than ever, how wise, how profound, this advice must be.  Live the questions,  because the answers you grasp for cannot be given, and if they could be, you would in the present moment not be able to live them. 

I remember when my father was diagnosed with cancer, having a lot of questions.  How could this good man, who lived a good life, a healthy life, have gotten cancer?  It didn’t make sense, it wasn’t fair.  When my mother, died, only four years later of a neurological syndrome almost no one had ever heard of, I had questions…..Why?  How could it happen?  How could this make sense?  That powerful little dynamo of person, how could she have had her ability to do, the one thing she prized, taken away from her?

Over the years there have been questions which have echoed, over and over again in my heart
How do bad people succeed?  Why do wonderful people die?  Why does life never seem to go the way I think it will?  Why is it that God so rarely does things the way I think God ought to do them?

I have asked these questions in deep need, when confronted by painful change.  My questions have been, I hope uttered honestly, faithfully,  and yet, often, with no hope of response: a prayer flung with desperation into a kind of cosmic silence.  I do not want to live the questions—I want answers!!  But really, there is nothing else to be done.

Over the past months, I have had more questions.
Questions about where God is in the midst of all I see happening around me…
In Lybia
In Japan
In Wisconsin and Indiana and Ohio
In Oregon

I have questions
Why the Tsunami?
Why do the wicked prosper?
Why do people the people we entrust with leadership betray our trust?
How can people make the choices they make?
Why are people so hateful?
Why do people with powerful ideologies get blinded, and end up doing more harm than good?
How can we as a nation choose to abandon the “little one” the vulnerable ones in our midst

I like Paul can talk in circles
Seeking to find satisfaction
And nice neat answers

And yet, recently, I have been trying my own hand at asking questions in a different way—questions that do not demand satisfaction, questions that do not already have an answer in mind, questions that are harder, but infinitely richer, than those I usually ask, or answer.

Parker Palmer, a great author who often talks about “living the questions” says, quite simply, that our questions should be both open and honest.  Now, I will confess that although I like to think my questions are open and honest, often I ask questions with the answer already in mind. 

But what do we do when we ask the tough questions, and can’t figure the answer out?
With the successful bad person
And the good person to whom bad things happen?

What happens when the answers really aren’t there?
Sometimes, in order to come to up with an “answers” we have to twist our minds into pretzels

Think about when a child dies.  About the horrid answers that come when people can’t live with the questions….“She was such a precious child God wanted to have her with Him”   Good grief, what kind of ogre God would take a child away from her parents like that?  Seriously!

Maybe sometimes we have to ask not so much for the answer, but for the wisdom to live within the uncertainty.  Sometimes we have to just let go of the question, essentially, and just move on – with a new question, a different question

To ask the question, who am I?  and who am I to be?  In this reality - in this world – which I don’t understand.  The question needs to be not, why has our culture lost its moral compass?  We have to live with that question.  The question has to be, “How can I be God’s person in the midst of a culture that is slowly throwing the poor underneath the bus?    The question to be answered is not “why are people greedy?”  We have to live with that question.  But rather “How can I be God’s person in a world where people want to entrench and hug their resources to themselves?”

How can we make that shift?  How can we live with those questions that eat at our souls, and move to questions that move us forward, into action, and keep us living, and doing and hoping?  We trust.  We trust that God will work his purposes out  -  that God will bring something out of even those things we cannot understand, or even emotionally accept.  To believe, “all things work together for good, for those who love God.”

So we are not called to have all the answers, we are called to trust…
That God is the great innovator and can use anything, even human failure to move his ministry of love forward.  If we trust than we will not be trapped by the negative, by what we cannot understand, by what seems, feels overwhelming, but can dare to move forward -
Doing what we can
In this time and this place
To help the Kingdom of God emerge

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