Rabbi David Wolpe once wrote that being human includes asking the important questions, asking them again and again and not letting go. The religion I grew up with wasn’t big on asking questions so I was often left to entertain them alone. I started at a a young age and haven’t stopped. As I work me way into elder years, I don’t seem as bothered by not having answers. I’m beginning to think that what matters is not being afraid of the questions.
Some of the questions I wrestled with earlier in life were somewhat theological. If it’s a sin to be angry, then what about Jesus in the Temple? Is sex really that bad? What happens if I get killed on the way to confession? These are from a time when I was caught up in the legalism that was a big part of my early journey.
Thankfully our questions seem to change over time, undoubtedly modified by life experiences. These questions led to valuable shifts in my belief system. The negative judgment of the Church against gays was called into question and rejected thanks to some very extraordinary gay people who chose to share their journeys with me. People of divorce helped me come to see that these folks should be welcome at the Table of the Lord, not turned away. My work with veterans solidified my belief that war is not acceptable, thereby rejecting my Church’s position of “justified war”.
Some questions have no answers but nonetheless provide illumination if I continue to wrestle with them. I learned form the writings of Viktor Frankl how important it is to pursue a sense of meaning even in the face of tragedy. Thus, when I question a tragedy in my or a loved one’s life as to why it happened, while this question is sometimes spoken with anger, it is probably the question that has been with me all my life starting with the deaths of my sisters. I still don’t have an answer but the wrestling has had much meaning. and I have learned much from others who have shared their struggles with the why question.
As I struggle with my questions about the afterlife, I hear stories that suggest there’s something there, a presence that sometimes reaches out to comfort. But the question remains.
My struggle with the ultimate question of whether there is a God and, if so, how do I view Him/Her also remains with me but, as I have wrestled with that question, it has opened up a level of belief quite different from the legalism of my youth. Now when I contemplate the complexities and wonder of the human brain, I cannot attribute that to chance. When I stand in Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend or at the tip of Yosemite Valley or on a deserted beach on the Irish coast, I sense a presence that I don’t often find in churches.
Those three questions, then, remain. Is there a God and, if so, what is His/Her nature? What happens when we die? Why do bad things happen to good people much less good things happen to bad people?
One of my favorite Bible stores is the one about Jacob wrestling with the angel. Jacob keeps wrestling until the angel tells Jacob his name. Jacob gets injured in the battle but doesn’t let go. I plan to go on wrestling the angel as long as possible.
REFLECTION: What questions have informed your spiritual journey?