“Do not now seek answers which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” (Rainer Maria Rilke – advice to an aspiring poet)
“This is a very difficult task, because in our world we are constantly pulled away from our innermost self and encouraged to look for answers instead of listening to the questions.” (Nouwen)
The hardest part of reading this book is that I find I’m being challenged by every paragraph. For some reason I often find myself reading in order to reach the end of the book. Perhaps it’s just so I can put it down and tell the world that I read it. Every once in a while, however, I find a book that I don’t want to end. I find myself re-reading paragraphs not because I didn’t get it the first time but because I wanted to prove that I just read what I read. This is one of those books.
How often I have found those who claim atheism or agnosticism or cynicism who haven’t yet made it out of their teens or even past 25 years of age. To assume you know so much about the deepest questions of life at such a young age is beyond me. Even at 40 I feel as if I know less now than I did 10 years ago. How much of their lives will be wasted by forcing themselves to walk down a path they over-committed to before they knew anything beyond their childhood angst? I see these things and I want to scream at those mentors who cut children off at their mental knees due to some tragic or pseudo-logical experience that convinced them it was better to deny the existence of God rather than confront their anger at God that resulted. This issue is closely connected to the last blog where we talked about getting caught up in fashionable beliefs because we’re not willing to handle the deep questions out of heart solitude. Anyone can convince themselves God is not real and it takes more emotions than it does brains to do so. If you’re one of those and you’re reading this blog, please take the message of heart solitude deep within you and consider what Henri Nouwen says. Never abandon your ability to consider the realities of God because you can’t explain them. Saying God does not exist only raises more questions and assures that you will never find answers.
Nouwen is right, we live in a world where we are “encouraged to look for answers instead of listening to the questions.” How often does our search for an answer end up answering the question prematurely, incompletely, wrongly or all three? Nouwen is making the point that, all too often, we are pulled away from the one place where we can truly discover who we are and what we believe and, in so doing, we fail to live. We answer the questions before we live the questions. We fail to experience life.
I’ve failed on this issue so many times. Yet I find myself thinking about the very issue I raised a paragraph or so ago. I’ve lived that question and every day I get more answers. I’m tired of hyper-intellectuals telling me I’m stupid because I believe in God. They are guided by a faulty ideology and philosophy that won’t allow them to question what they think they already know. Do you have questions? I have answers, but I’d rather you look deep inside and start living the question yourself.
Do you think God doesn’t exist? You’d better live that question before you answer it. Could it be that you are seeking answers you’re not ready for? Live the questions of life and, perhaps, you’ll live into the answers.