Mike offered to start the class in prayer. It was the standard variety giving thanks and asking for guidance as we began our discussion. Then he said something that caught me completely by surprise. His words were, “Give us questions to our answers.”
Think about it a minute. We all find ourselves engulfed in moments when we want to pummel God with a bazillion questions blasting The Divine for our grief, frustration, depression, anguish, loneliness…well, the list is endless. And, we want answers! Life isn’t fair and we tend to point out to God just how unreasonable our circumstances are.
Yet, what if we actually found embedded in our discontent a litany of questions designed to shake us out of our arbitrary assuredness of what life should be? What if, like Job, we faced a series of questions designed to let us know that God loves us so much that in spite of our rhetoric, God continues to nudge us toward becoming all that God created us to be? What if those questions shifted our understanding from self-magnification to that of what it means to live in God’s world as a single part of the fullness of God’s creation? And…what if we lived as if that mattered?
Questions to our answers.
We can become complacent in our understanding of right behavior based on doctrines and dogmas. We have answers for what we believe and in whom we believe in an attempt to justify why we do what we do…sometimes to the point of rationalizing horrible behavior. I read this morning about a family…and I use the word loosely…in Pakistan who strangled and burned an 18 year old daughter and sister because she eloped with the man she loved, a man who was not accepted by the people who shared her DNA. “Family honor” had to be restored. What??? And this is somehow based on religious precepts?
Most world religions have a base of compassion. Radical interpretations of sacred texts can result in factions that pull away from the concept of getting along with each other. Even in Christianity we have crazy people who think it is somehow acceptable to preach hate and violence. And for what??? To preserve an answer??? To keep thinking that we are right and the rest of the world is wrong??? To give us exclusive membership to the Righteous Club???
What if we put our rhetorical answers to a simple test? Are we clinging to a concept that belittles another or a group of others? Does our ‘answer’ give us justification for verbal or physical abuse of another? Do we hide behind our perceived notions of religion to exclude those who share different beliefs? Do we take time to listen and understand those who see life in a way that is unfamiliar to us?
Questions to our answers.
We must be comfortable questioning, questioning and questioning again what compassion looks in each and every situation we find ourselves in to limit the extreme division and polarization plaguing our culture One day it may simply be holding the door at Target for that mom struggling to corral 3 small children. Another day it may be joining a conversation with someone who is struggling with the trials of life. Hopefully there will also be a day when compassion pulls us to the other side of the city; to the other side of the aisle; to the other place of worship; to the other perspective on life long enough to question our answers and realize that others also have answers that may be contrary to our own. Then, we must pray that we can find answers to our questions that are formed out of and through our conversations and the resulting realization that our previous answers may be painfully wrong. Maybe then we can form new answers that are broader and less exclusive. Maybe then we can live harmony where compassion constantly and consistently leads us to question our answers, allowing us to find that sweet spot of loving our neighbor as we love ourselves.