Living the Questions
Sometime back in March I lost most of the routines that provided structure for me, so I began pushing myself to find a new normal in the midst of these strange times. Last week, I let the sunrise nudge me out the door each morning for a run. I wanted to listen—listen to my heart, listen to God, listen to nature’s alluring call. I heard the in's and out's of my breath, the quick movement of a deer running through the woods adjacent to me, and water trickling over rocks of the creek bed. I heard the breeze high in the trees and the rusty crow of a rooster. These sounds became very loud, louder than the fury of questions and confusion that has reigned in my soul for weeks.
Moving about life these days, I have struggled to zero-in on the beauties of this planet that we walk around and the simple wonder of breathing. It’s no secret that we have all been caught up in the endless reel of questions that present themselves--People at vicious odds with one another, grievous injustices and retaliation, forthcoming elections, the virus, too many numbers to process, and school--how it will play out or what the future could look like. On and on it goes, yet the road doesn’t seem to lead me to the answers. Instead, it's a meandering maze of bewilderment and I am left scratching my head wondering how I got to this place.
I have been trying to piece together the information that storms into my head, or the feed that comes across my line of vision as I scroll through news headlines and social media. Mostly, I just want to attain some measure of understanding, so that I can respond decently. But, It’s daunting, confusing, and it leaves me feeling defeated. When my children ask me questions about what will happen in the next months or year, I draw blanks. I can’t make projections or speculate. When we begin to have conversations about riots, protests and the unrest, I fumble to offer any assurance that peace can truly exist again . Whys? What ifs? Is this right or is that wrong? Questions scramble around my brain in a tedious whirlwind, and my ability to reason makes a crash-landing in cold, dark wasteland.
It takes tremendous effort to keep walking in this darkness—to navigate all the things that stand in my path—to reject anger and dodge ignorance, to keep reaching for hope and for love, and patience, to allow my senses to take over while I close my eyes, catch my breath and press on with faith--remembering the sheltering hands of God, remembering the claim on our lives, remembering the incomprehensible, relentless love that finds me in every snare and loop that traps my feet. We are not forgotten. We are not a hopeless cause, we are not beyond His rescue, We may be emptied and wrung-out, but God is love-sick and generous. We may be tired, ragged people trampling through insurmountable questions and frustrations, but God, his love, and our calling, remain the same even if everything else changes.
I remember a moment nine years ago: I was lying on the floor, staring at the ceiling, when reality swept over me suspending the exhale from my lungs for a split-second, and I felt myself falling down a dark hole. It is the same ceiling that I walk under everyday in my living room, but once upon a time it belonged to someone else and I was a foreigner in this new land. I had a home, but it wasn’t yet my home. I felt stripped of my identity. I couldn’t connect the comfortable familiar to all that was new. The skin that I had grown into, didn’t fit right in this place, so I had to evolve and adapt, by reaching for God's grace as I slowly adjusted over that first year and climbed out of a rut. Recalling this reminds me that I am no stranger to the altar of change. I have crawled on my knees through wasteland, with little relief, with more questions than answers, with the discomfort of not seeing all the outcomes.
20th Century Austrian poet Rainer Maria Wilke wrote these words in his work “Letters to a Young Poet”:
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart, love the questions like locked rooms and books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers which cannot be given to 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 into the answer”
I have worn these words like a badge on my soul as I took detours through wilderness. Sometimes we use the phrase ‘get out of our heads’ as if we need to push a reset button, and this is often the case for me. While caution and careful thoughts are worthwhile, other times I need to practice letting go and surrender to the free-fall. My answer to most questions right now is: “I don’t know”. l want to have a better one, but for now this is it. I am standing with all of you in quandaries that seem like an enormous puzzle with pieces scattered everywhere. The bigger picture evades us. And yet, after wrestling with my own need to have things figured out, I have realized that some answers come in their own time— the getting there is more important than the knowing. It forces me to come to the end of myself, and rely on strength far greater than my own.
This is how I am choosing to live the questions: by being quicker to listen than I am to speak, not rivaling for my own way, breathing as much fresh air as possible, striving to love people better(because we can always do better), and clinging to the hope of heaven. We were made for a perfect world, yet we live in a very imperfect one. We continue to ramble along the road wandering farther away, when we are really searching for the way back home. As we live-streamed church in my aunt and uncle’s kitchen Sunday morning, I nearly came undone as I listened to my grandmother hum along to the hymn, “How Great thou Art”. How beautiful is a heart that leans heavily on her savior's arms, ninety-three years along on her journey home. Maybe the only thing that makes sense right now, is not trying to make sense of it all, but relinquishing the need for control and letting the arms of God carry me through this valley-To live by the high-calling of love, and to not let the questions hold my feet, but to simply live them, to shut my eyes more and trust that the hands that hold the whole world are holding me too.
"Heart of my own heart, whate'er befall, Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.."