Fixed views and habits silence our minds and incline us toward life on automatic pilot. Questions open our minds and express the dynamism of being human. A good question has heart, arising from a deep love to discover what is true.
~ Frank Ostaseski, The Five Invitations
I grew up in the context of certainty – about doctrine, about who’s right and who’s wrong, about blessed Protestants and damned Catholics, the Bible Answer Man answering all our questions. We treated the Bible, in the words of Karen Armstrong, as a “‘holy encyclopaedia’ in which one may look up information about God.” The Bible was a book of answers. And the goal was to find them.
What if the quest is less for answers than it is for an answering God?
And it is only the deep desire born of questions asked in uncertainty that will satisfy us at a level deeper than our ego.
Nicodemus was a well-established religious leader in Jerusalem, gaining stature through years of study and service – a respected political leader at the centre of power in Israel. But in the middle of his religious certainty he had questions stirring inside that took him, under the cover of darkness, to see Jesus. And what does Jesus do with this genuine seeker? He pushes him out into “liminal space”, a threshold space of transition – uncertainty.
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
There is no lifeline here – only a push farther to the edge. There are no answers – only misunderstanding and confusion as indicated by Nicodemus’ answer:
“What do you mean?” …. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”
Nicodemus didn’t get it, and Jesus wasn’t helping. Has this ever been your experience? I’m guessing this story is yours too! The gospels contain story after story of Jesus upending people’s certainty and inviting them to keep following. Perhaps it’s time I let go of answers and risked a little ambiguity. Sounds risky. But perhaps the risk of being stuck is greater.
In the introduction to John Deer’s book, The Questions of Jesus, Richard Rohr writes:
In the realm of soul and spirit …the important thing is not to settle the dust and respond to the ego’s need for closure and satisfaction, but in fact to lead one into vital relationship. The ego so demands immediate satisfaction that it will almost always settle for satisfying falsehood rather than remain on the search for often unsatisfying truth. Jesus keeps us on the necessary search.
For Lent, I continue to let go of a God of certainty and embrace a God who respects both my curiosity and the wisdom of the Spirit within. How about you?
Wm. Paul Young event in Calgary April 18, Lies we Believe About God
Being With Our Sorrow – Saturday March 28, 2020, St Lawrence Anglican, Calgary
Facilitators: Helen Barry and Pearl Nieuwenhuis
Brad Jersak opens us to A More Christlike Way