“Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you.” —Matthew 7:7
I have questions for God. After two long years of ambiguity flirting with hopelessness, I feel like I’m trudging into 2022, still dragging the unanswered questions of “what if” from 2020 and 2021 along with me: What if the pandemic hadn’t happened? What if we had responded with more unanimous vigilance? What if the Latin lexicon of variants hadn’t reared its ugly head just as we were emerging into the “new normal” we had been preparing for? What if…?
Asking questions of our religion, orthodoxy, creeds and, yes, God Themself is a healthy practice with the constant potential of strengthening our faith. But my “what ifs” sound more like Job hurling frustration into the silent sky than the contemplative questioning of a curious seeker who genuinely wants—who desperately needs—an answer. That’s more true to how I’m feeling at the dawn of this New Year: in need of hopeful answers in these particular times.
Well, it’s a good thing I follow a hopeful Savior who asked more questions than provided answers. When asked anything from the manipulatively mundane to the profoundly prognostic, Jesus often replied with questions that were meant to redirect the questioner away from their own agendas and anxieties, desires and desperation, and toward the abundant, ceaseless, steadfast provisions of God. In the same way that the psalmist asked questions that reoriented them toward God’s help (“How long, O Lord?” (Psalm 13)), Jesus exemplified questioning to remind us of the awesomeness of the Good Shepherd and the hope that comes with relying on Them.
So, I’m trying to leave behind those what ifs and redirect my questions to the what now. I’m not giving up on questioning. I’m doubling down on it. But I’m trying to be more contemplative in that practice of asking, searching, and knocking that Jesus preached about so that I can be more open to the holy answers that have already been provided to me before I even ask questions; questions I have and that I hear from others, like…
What do I do about my insecure, self-absorbed family member that I can never please, no matter what I do? Should I be in relationship with them? How?
Should I help others or help myself? How much of either is enough?
How should I feel about the person with two large flags in their front yard: one of an assault rifle, and the other of the confederate stars and bars? How should I treat them?
Should I go to church this Sunday, or should I worship from the comfort of my home via a screen…or should I just go for a walk outside? What’s the best way for me to practice my spirituality?
What do I say to my child about their grandparent’s death?
With things being in constant flux, how can I most effectively “be the church”?
When should I speak up in witness to Jesus’ directives for justice, mercy, peace, forgiveness, and love? How am I supposed to do that? What difference does it make?
As we ask these questions at the start of 2022, Fr. Jules Monchanin, the French Catholic Priest and monk, provides this perspective: “For us, let it be enough to know ourselves to be in the place God wants for us (in the modern world) and carry on our work, even though it be no more than the work of an ant, infinitesimally small, and with unforeseeable results. Now is the hour of the garden and the night, the hour of silent offering: therefore the hour of hope: God alone. Faceless, unknown, unfelt, yet undeniable: God.”
Prayer: Everlasting, ever-loving God, when I want certainty, fill my heart, mind, and spirit with what I need: your grace, your righteousness, your love that knows no limits. And in the depths of my seeking soul, let all that you provide be more than enough. Amen.