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a sweet smooth little Chris Rice song goes:
"i'm saving up questions for heaven"
and i'm starting to wonder whether i really am subconsciously saving all my unspoken, unthought-of questions for some unknown time, for all intents and purposes a non-existent time, just saving my brain the trouble of thinking them up now, since they would probably be incoherent and irrelevant and take too long to answer and bother the hell out of people. and other people always think up such incredible meaningful insightful questions, i could never think up such splendid questions, so why try.
the lies i tell myself.
this particular little lie is paralyzing. numbing. immobilizing. inhibiting. just as effectively as my emotions were once, long-ago, paralyzed by the death-grip of depression. i can feel myself blanking out as soon as a professor or speaker asks "are there any questions?" even in a class like Explorations in Social Work, which i lovelovelove and want to learn all i can and pour my life into that work, into loving and serving people. even in that, my absolute favorite class, where i should be fully engaged and inquisitive and squeezing the marrow out of all there is to know about the topics...somehow i panic, i flatline, i wipe the slate of my mind peculiarly and practically rudely clean, just at the moment i should be looking at the picture of what i've been absorbing and searching for the little gaps that need to be filled in to make the picture more complete.
do i think i've got it all down, that i've picked up all i need to pick up, that i know everything i need to know already? do i hesitate and come to a halt in my question-formulating process because somewhere in me has absorbed too much of the falsehood that questions signify weakness and ignorance, or of the lie that i am too weak and ignorant to think and speak meaningfully? do i think i'm exempt from the need to dig deeper, to muster up the courage and be vulnerable with a concern, a doubt, a lack in understanding, a personal curiosity on something close to my heart or incomprehensible to it? do i not want to be faced with the reality of the answers that might actually move me to change my life around, mess it up a little-- or a lot? i want so badly to know how to ask these kinds of questions, questions that matter and break down barriers and move the mind and heart to see things differently. and not just to know how but to let my lip muscles and vocal chords and breath stream be moved to actually ask them and be surprised and amazed at the answers, and moved by them into obedient, compassionate action. John 14 tells how Jesus said, "whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me...if anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching...the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what the Father has commanded me." somewhere in me or around me there must be a dark voice that wants to obliterate my questions and obscure the Way, by convincing me either that i already know it and don't need to ask questions, or that i can never know it and no amount or quality of questions will get me closer. both twisted lies. thank you Jesus for opening my eyes a little, but now i'm in more danger than ever of falling asleep on the job of following your footsteps...oh i need your protection more than ever, your promise of "peace I leave with you; my peace I give you."
even just earlier tonight, Chris Lahr spoke to a small group of us students to kick off Social Justice Week, and he spoke with authority and tenderness and a twinkle in his eye and a gritty Philly-laced edge to his voice, and he's been to India, and grew up in Indiana and gave his life to Jesus at a church camp about 20 minutes from here, and went to Eastern University and started the Y.A.C.H.T. Club basically by just hanging out with homeless people and being crazy-faithful to follow whatever God wanted, and then went to Asbury Seminary, and then joined thesimpleway and works for Mission Year, an organization that takes teams of young people to live and serve and create community in an urban area of need. SO many things in that history that i would have loved to ask him about. take that back. so many things that i would love to know about. but was too busy telling myself repeatedly and impatiently to think of something awesome to ask, or some way to introduce myself and thank him and talk a little about what i want to do with my life (therein probably lies the problem--i was focused on how to talk about myself, or how i was such a failure at asking questions), and never came up with anything that mattered or even made sense. in this sad phenomenon of fallen human nature, i'm a prime example:
being consumed with self cuts off community. and being cut off from community eats away at the self.
so what will it take for me to step outside of my no-questions-asked box? well, maybe sleeping in a cardboard box for a few nights will be a catalyzing start, though that by itself can do nothing; it is the community we cultivate while we live there together that can transform us. maybe realizing that stepping into a situation of wrestling with an issue is not a contradiction to the peace which i prize so dearly; rather, it is a requirement for true peace! reconciliation of any kind requires honest questions and honest answers about what has gone wrong, what has caused the brokenness and who am i/are we and who are you/y'all and who does God want us to be together. restoring our relationships and ourselves to wholeness means engaging with the queries and queernesses in us and between us and around us; shaking hands with them, not stamping them out.
how am i going to overcome my non-participation in and fear of Q and A time? i don't know. Holy Spirit, come. touch your flaming coal to my mouth. here i am. i sing along with an old Rebecca St. James song:
"i've sinned, come on my knees, for i'm not worthy of your love, how could you die for me? such grace can only come from God,
oh Lord you search and you know me, you see me inside out, Lord you alone can forgive me, erase my fear and my doubt,
Father you pick me up, i feel like a child in your arms, i don't deserve this love but i hear your voice, Lord Jesus,
'go and sin no more', you say 'I will not condemn you, I'll forgive and I'll forget it all, go and sin no more, my child let me remind you it is I who'll lead and guide you as you go...'"
but before i go...
i do believe there is beauty and blessing in being able to just sit and appreciate what people are saying and gather wisdom from the questions and answers others give around me, and it would be wrong to carry around bricks of guilt for every time i stay quiet in a group just enjoying their presence and their thoughts, but it has definitely been laid on me lately that "there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot...a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance...a time to be silent and a time to speak", and i need to learn to live in that balance, and be boldly vulnerable by being willing to ask questions, to spend them wisely instead of save them up, tear them up, or squander them.
so here's a question to ponder: where do i see Jesus in his distressing disguises, and how do i respond right now? [Mother Teresa used to say that 'in the poor, we find Jesus in his most distressing disguises'. and that you have to 'find your own Calcutta' in which you can meet people's needs, in the way that only you are uniquely able to do.] it's Social Justice Week at Taylor, and i'm hoping to find some answers...by seeking and asking questions.