I’d rather live with a good question than a bad answer – Aryeh Frimer
I’ll never forget my first day at university as a theology undergrad.
Walking bright-eyed through the hallways of those imposing buildings, I was convinced that I had finally arrived at a place where all the many questions that had weighed on my mind since my late teens would be answered.
Questions about God. About life. About injustice and suffering and pain and sorrow.
In my naïvety, I firmly believed that someone, somewhere – a professor with many degrees, perhaps – had it all figured out. A suitably qualified expert would provide me with neatly packaged, ready-made, cookie cutter answers that would sweep away every doubt and reservation.
Of course I was wrong. Dead wrong.
In fact, my expectations were way off the mark. A disturbing trend emerged: The more I learned, the more questions I had. With every new revelation, a new set of impenetrable mysteries would loom on the horizon. Every time the light of comprehension flooded a dark corner of my mind, another shadow, previously hidden, would appear to haunt me.
At the same time, the professors who had spent their entire lives investigating these questions seemed to be remarkably unwilling to commit to the black-or-white responses I demanded.
It didn’t take long for the realization to dawn on me: we were all in the same boat. We were all trying to make sense of mysteries far beyond our ability to comprehend.
It’s a realization that still grabs hold of me today when I open my Bible to Genesis, with all its symbolism, poetic devices and multiple layers of meaning. I get that feeling every time I’m faced with the impenetrable depth of Ecclesiastes and Proverbs and every time I ponder the mysteries of John’s apocalyptic Revelation.
It’s the kind of feeling Paul must have known when he wrote my favourite Bible verse, 1 Corinthians 13:12: “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
I often contrast those candid words of Paul – that humble and mature admission the we currently see “only a reflection” – to the way we tend to approach the tough questions and biblical mysteries that perplex us today. All too often, in our misguided quest to “know it all”, we gravitate to cheap answers. We live in the information age, after all, which means we have to know it all – and we want it in bite-size tweetables; in the form of easily digestible truths and predictable formulas. We want simple answers that appeal to our quick-and-easy sensibilities.
For some reason, however, God does not appear to do things that way. It’s a lesson I have had to learn many, many times over the years.
He doesn’t do bite-size.
He doesn’t do obvious.
He doesn’t do predictable.
He doesn’t do comfortable.
He doesn’t do easy.
That’s why I tend to be naturally suspicious of Christians who have a neatly packaged answer at the ready for every one of life’s questions. Ditto for believers who are convinced that they have the low-down on exactly who and how God is.
Like Paul and so many heroes of the faith before him, I hope to somehow learn to relish in uncertainties. To love questions. To be comfortable with gray.
Because every question points me in the direction of The Answer.