I used to think questions meant loss, but now I know questions mean true peace and love.
I managed to make it pretty far into adulthood without having a major meltdown about the faith I had held in my heart since I was 4 years old. Sure there were moments that made me pause and sometimes roll my eyes in disgust (the role of women in the church, dating rituals, and of course the whole concept of modest is the hottest). But since most of those issues were rooted more in church culture than in the character of Jesus himself I managed to skate through each incident with my faith relatively intact. Sure maybe it was a little bruised. But at the end of the day I was confident in what I knew. Jesus is holy. Jesus is love. Jesus is my savior. Jesus is my help and comfort.
And then something happened. It’s happened before and it will happen again, a prayer went unanswered. At least it went unanswered the way that I wanted it to be answered. I prayed harder than I had ever prayed for a healing to occur. I grew up in the spirit filled Pentecostal faith tradition (As Sarah Bessey would call us, the happy clappy people). I knew about powerful moves from the Holy Spirit. I knew about miracles. I had seen them happen. And yet, this time the answer was no. And for some reason, this broke me. I spiraled. I found myself lying on the floor of my room confused and sad. And for some reason, all the answers that normally quieted my spirit weren’t working. In fact they had the opposite effect. Each time one of them floated through my mind I got angrier and angrier.
Jesus does hear prayers.
He does? Well he certainly didn’t hear mine and all the other hundreds of people praying for the same thing
Jesus does heal
Yeah sure he does. But not always and there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason as to when he will heal and when he won’t.
He does always heal. Sometimes not here on earth
Oh shut up voice in my head. Now I’m getting angry.
It was scary. The answers that used to satisfy were instead making me furious. It was like a domino effect. One little push and everything came crashing down. I found myself doubting things that were the very foundation of my faith. I was thinking of Jesus as an arbitrary being. An alien who couldn’t be as good as he purported himself to be. Someone who could do what I asked but wouldn’t just to be spiteful. Someone who patted me on the head in a patronizing manner when I got angry because my poor little brain would never understand how great and mighty he was. I was pissed. I was hurt. I felt lost.
I kept moving forward. Not because I wanted to, but because I didn’t know what else to do. Who was I if I didn’t have my faith in Jesus? I plodded along the path feeling so disconnected from the things that had meant so much to me for all of my life. I couldn’t stop the questions from coming. One would spin out into another until I felt caught in a web that would never let me go. I couldn’t believe basic things without spinning out into more and more questions. I hated my questions. It seemed like everyone else around me could just keep going. They weren’t having an existential spiritual crisis every time someone used the phrase “God is good”. I wished I had never started questioning anything. I wished I could go back to the blissful ignorance I felt before.
But then something amazing happened.
Jesus met me in the questions.
One day I looked up and there he was. He didn’t shake his head in disappointment at me. He didn’t gasp in shock at the horrible things I was thinking about him. He didn’t even answer my questions. He was just there. I tried to make him go away. I threw every horrible accusation at him that I could. But he wouldn’t leave. He just kept showing up. As a little whisper in my spirit. So tiny I could barely hear it.
I love you
I love you
I love you
It was overwhelming. To be the ugliest version of myself I could possibly be. And still feel his love surround me. I emptied all the darkness in my soul at his feet. And he covered it with his love. And slowly I felt the web around me loosening.
I didn’t get answers to most of my questions. I’m still struggling with a lot of them. I thought I needed answers to feel peace in my faith again. But the truth is I didn’t need answers for peace. I needed Jesus. I needed to understand his love again. Because when I understand his love the unanswered questions don’t look as scary. He loves me. He loves me in a huge, all consuming, life giving way. Jesus’ love is the raft I cling to in the overwhelming sea of questions I constantly face. The waves will keep crashing. But I’m not going to drown. I have the love of my Abba Father keeping my head above water.
In Sarah Bessey’s new book she talks about a French philosopher named Paul Ricoeur and his work about the stages of life; naiveté (taking everything we’re taught at face value), critical distance (we doubt), and second naiveté. If we can push through the critical distance we come to this second naiveté. It’s a place where, as Sarah says, “We take responsibility for what we believe and do. We understand our texts or ideas or practices differently yet, but also with a sweetness because we are there by choice.”
I’ve pushed through the critical distance. I still have questions and doubts. But in my second naiveté I found the one that can handle them all. He doesn’t try to answer my questions with “churchy” answers. Instead he shows me his nail pierced hands and feet. He calls me beloved. He quiets me with his love and rejoices over me with his song. My questions don’t scare me anymore. Instead they strengthen me. Because they lead me into the loving embrace of the Prince of Peace.
There’s just something about that name.