I’m reflecting today on the value of questions. My thoughts are prompted by the gift of simple questions I recalled from years past when working on a poem for my poetry writers group.

But before I get to them, I ask you to trudge with me through the weeds of my explanation of the basis of my question valuing faith.

To begin, I believe the deepest truth is found in paradox. I didn’t begin my intentional search for truth valuing or exploring paradox. I discovered its truth after dead-end searches in the valley of absolutes. Even though many followers of most if not all religions claim absolute truth for their brand, I’ve yet to find a faith system that is not grounded in mystic insights entered through the door of paradox. For example, Asian religions express what I found in paradox with the concept of Ying-yang which understands and depicts opposites as complementary.

I don’t believe that anything is absolute and to claim it or seek it leads away from wisdom. Here is where questions play their part. In the mystery and seeming contradictions of paradox, questions lead us to deeper understanding and more questions.

A “true” believer who has no tolerance for questions or answers other than his or her own is not only worshiping a god created in her or his image but cultivates death in the name of defending its half-truth. You have heard, perhaps said yourself that the problem with religion is that it leads to wars. That is a legitimate charge against authoritarian religion that calls questioners heretics. A life-giving faith respects doubt, both one’s own and that of others. A vital faith is humble. A vital faith tells the truth it knows and knows that it does not know all the truth.

It is easy to see why Rainer Maria Rilke’s advice in “Letters to a Young Poet” speaks to me.

I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

If the young poet asked me, I would add follow where your faith calls and greet the questions met along the way with kindness, respect. They are not given to defeat you but to assist you on your journey into the mystery where facts shadow dance and truth is the music.

You may now understand why when searching within myself to write a poem to share with the fine poets I am fortunate to meet with twice a month, I found questions. These, you will soon see, are not the important questions such as “If God is Love why is there so much suffering?” That question invites significant exploration of what the words “God” and “love” mean and must be pursued, certainly by every Christian. The questions I found in my memory of decades of pastoral ministry explore God and love but avoid too much abstraction.

Questions I Remember:

1. At a gathering of the family a nephew’s fundamentalist wife, meeting my daughter for the first time, asked,

“Do you,

like your father,

believe everyone goes to heaven?”

“Yes,” she said.

2. My son was 5. “If God made everything who made God?”

“We believe God always was.”

“I can’t find that in my mind.”

3. It was my third visit to see her on the psych wing. Gaunt, hiding in plain sight,

a child of the parish I had never seen before.

She had yet to say a word to me. As I started to leave,

five words.

“Do you believe in God?”

“Yes” I answered

and said somethings about love.

There was no fourth visit.

Home for an overnight

she found a gun

in the trunk of her father’s car.

4. Bursting out of my second floor study door zipping my robe I nearly run over a boy.

He – perhaps lost. perhaps exploring.

I – late for worship

stopped soon enough not to zip him in.

Startled, wide eyed, “Are you God? ” “No.” I say, smiling.

Bill Gregory is an author and retired UCC minister. He can be contacted at: [email protected]