Have you ever spent time with a three or four year old, that amazing age when they are beginning to wonder and they want to know the how, and why of everything. They are FULL of questions. They are full of exploration. As the adult in the conversation, which I've found really feels more like an inquisition at times, it can be a challenge to be present to each question. You're suddenly confronted with just how much you don't know. You might have a masters degree, or a couple of them, and yet have no idea why toilets flush the direction they do, or exactly how do butterflies fly. Thank goodness for Google!
As a librarian, my work started with questions. "Where do I find this book?" "Where can I find out about the history of the supreme court?" "How can I find out the elevation gains along Highway 101?" (That was a really interesting question, this guy had recently had eye surgery and was about to start grad school in southern California, but he couldn't go above like 10, 000 feet to something or his eye might explode. Yea, so I had to help him find a route to California. He made it!) What was affirmed for me in my work as a librarian was that our learning begins with our questions. And how we formulate, how we ask our questions, is as equally important as the answers we end up with.
But just as the kiddos questions about how and why the world works can disrupt our illusion of being knowledgeable and educated, the hard questions we ask as adults about how and why the world works can disrupt the power of the institutions and systems of our culture.
For many the questions they asked about God, faith and religion were met with resistance. The questions were brushed aside with encouragement to just have faith, just believe harder. Questions are like seeds, they are an opportunity and a change to explore further, to deepen our faith, deepen our knowledge, deepen our understanding. But only if the question is planted in fertile soil. Questions that are asked in supportive and encouraging environments have the chance to grow. Questions that are asked, but squelched by an unsupported environment often times stop right there. When we ask a question and its met with resistance we are less likely to ask questions in the future and we no longer feel seen, supported or encouraged. Just like the questions of the inquisitive child, when we are encouraged to ask questions our knowledge grows. As parents the best thing we can do for our children is to teach them how to ask questions and seek information. To do that we must also acknowledge when we don't know something. It creates an opportunity to teach them how to find the answers through exploration and research, through further conversation and further questions.
The same is true of a loving and living God. Our loving and living God is not threatened, challenged, or uncomfortable with our questions. Our loving and living God stretches to envelop our questions. Our loving and living God expands to embrace our questions and our explorations. Because our questions are where our faith begins and where our faith expands.
This community embraces questions. This community is fertile ground for our questions. Together we will ask questions, big and small, and together we will explore answers and deeper understanding. And when our questions lead to more questions, we will take a deep breath and dive deeper. Trusting this community to hold tenderly, challenge compassionately and embrace each question as a chance.
Some of the questions we asked:
How do I find spirit in the chaos?
How do I balance self-growth with self-worth?
How can my faith fit into Christianity? And how Christianity be expanded to fit my faith?
How do questions that have no answer feed faith? Does certainty enhance or diminish faith?
How do I maintain a non-violent ideal when that approach no loner effects change?
Where do I belong?
How do we explain religion and beliefs to our children?
How do we take care of ourselves to continue to show up for the work?
I want to know more about women's voices in the Bible.
What questions are you carrying? What questions do you want to ask and explore?
Over the coming weeks we will use these questions as a focus for our Sunday Gathering. We'll explore the question as we seek an answer(s) together.