While writing Slightly Braver, I began wandering through an old file filled with former writings. This one sounded so very Bravester, yet it was written in 2002 for Wild Frontier, a youth ministry resource I led for 25 years. I believe Bravester has always been in me.
Anyway for nostalgic sake and because there is some very good stuff in here, I give you The Keeper of the Questions.
Q: My mom and dad are divorcing and I am in the middle. What am I to do?
A: Ask Jesus to lead you. He is there for you.
Q: Why does the Bible say this here and this there?
A: God gave us His word. He will reveal it to you.
Q: How could this disaster come into my life? I’ve been serving God diligently.
A: God knows what He is doing. It is all a part of a greater plan.
These may be good answers but they also feel like “pat” answers.” They really don’t touch the depth of the hurt. They may even feel more like a cheap bandage that when it falls off leaves an even deeper wound.
So how do we live with these questions that really can’t be answered in a way that helps now? How do I teach that there are questions without perfect answers in life and Jesus is not always answer enough? Yes, Jesus is the answer for the world today (everyone sing together) but he is not always answer enough.
My favorite author, John Fischer, wrote
“Questions force an honesty that we are unwilling to confront–an honesty that requires us to live with our lives unresolved.” —True Believers
Ouch! I do not like that one bit. How can I live with my life unresolved? Especially since I am in leadership and am supposed to be this example, the wise one, the one who is supposed to answer questions? Especially since Christianity is presented time and time again as the answer to every problem we face. “Just come to Jesus and you will have hope” is often our message to “them.” Honestly, these Christian “pat answers” are not working even for me and I know Jesus. Sometimes I feel that this Christian thing is not all “that.” Is this how are youth feel–whether expressed or not?
John Fischer further wrote,
“We want to exist in a closed system where every question has an answer, every problem has a solution. But in the process, we unknowingly shut out God.”
He’s right. Who would need God if we had every answer and every solution? We could just go to the “Great Book” or the “guru” to get the answer or solution and be on our way. Isn’t that how cults start?
Living with questions of life unresolved draws me to the One All-Knowing God. It keeps me searching deeper to know more and more and more about this God. It keeps me in dependence on this God. Not that I am some fool for believing all this stuff which doesn’t ever seem to work out (in my way) but that this great God is concerned about “little ol’ me” and my pain. That this great God wants me to know more than just the answer but to also know Him. I find that through my most painful times I always come out knowing God in a much closer way. In fact, I often lose that when I’m back out “there” with answers to every question.
Not that this is easy. I wish I personally really could live as confidently as I sound in that last paragraph. My human mind tells me that if I only had the answer, I could make it through this dark time. I wrestle with this often until I finally remember that I would miss out on knowing God.
I believe this whole thing is called faith.
How do we teach this faith to our youth when we, ourselves, wrestle with it? I am not the only one wrestling with this, right?
We teach with questions. We have open-ended messages and open-ended discussion times. This allows youth to share their questions. This allows youth to share their life wisdom. This allows the youth to be heard. This allows all the youth to realize how life really is.
It is so much easier to teach closed messages. There is the natural progression of the beginning, the middle and the end. Three points. We get the opportunity to share our wisdom–which is something to be proud of. It has the feel of being more effective.
Yet you know that you, yourself, are not a completed project so why project that about yourself even though you are in leadership. An open-ended message or discussion has a challenge that is set. Your youth are given the chance to be on top of the vert ramp to make a trial run whatever the outcome. Odds are they will wipe out but they will improve and have a better run next time. The possibility to ask questions, even if the answers are unresolved, resonates within that need of teenagers (and adults).
When children are younger, they ask question after question. “Why…? Why…? Why…?” It gets tiring as a parent. “Because I said so’s” becomes the final answer. Know this: children’s questions are not about the answers. Their questions are about relationship. Children intuitively know that their questions are welcomed, appreciated and safe. They know that not only are the questions welcomed but that they are welcomed. In a welcoming environment where questions are safe, children are infected with curiosity. They are infected with truth. Curiosity is a great thing to be infected with while people are always searching for the truth. And we know that the truth will always lead them to the Truth.
When children fall asleep at night after asking a days full of questions, they are secure in the knowledge that the one who loves them is bigger than all their questions. They sleep deeply knowing that they are safe in the arms of their keeper of the questions.
(Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lamailloux/11563052893)