He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” Luke 24:36-40
It seems to me that Christians have often confused doubting with questioning.
My first training was in medicine. In that field, like in any of the science fields, students are rewarded for questioning. Questioning leads to deeper understanding, and that is always a good thing.
Somehow, somewhere along the way, in the church we have confused questioning with doubting. Some of us are just wired to ask questions. To wonder. To probe. To explore. To examine.
When I bought my first motorcycle I was only twenty-two. It was a used bike and needed cleaning. I was curious about everything. I was at my parent’s home visiting and I took it apart and had it spread across the garage floor. My dad came home and looked at the parts and screws and bolts and then looked at me. “What are you doing?!
“I needed to understand how it works,” I said simply. It was true. I took apart everything that I could; cleaned all the parts and reassembled it. (I was delighted there weren’t any leftover pieces.)
A few years later I married my husband who was already a Lutheran pastor. I had grown up in a Lutheran home with parents who modeled faith well for me. I had been a leader in our youth group and youth choir at church. But I didn’t want to be Lutheran just because I happened to be baptized Lutheran. I wanted to know that Lutheran was the “right” faith tradition for me.
And so I did to my faith what I had done to my motorcycle: took it apart and examined each piece and then reassembled it to understand how it works. I can honestly say that I am a Lutheran by choice, having critically examined the doctrines, the core beliefs, and the scriptures through a “Lutheran lens”. My clergy husband was patient with my questions. He never ridiculed or shamed me for asking questions. He took each question seriously and we had wonderful conversation. His patient conversation is certainly a part of what led me to seminary a few years later.
I am grateful my husband understood the importance of questions. When I felt guilty for questioning, he quoted one of his former professors who said something to the effect of, “The unexamined faith does not go very deep.” Since then I have read and appreciated much of what Buechner has written.
God intends for us to struggle with the great questions and challenges of life and faith. I believe doubt is a chief building block in the construction of our faith. Frederick Buechner, contemporary theologian, says, “Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith; they keep faith alive and moving.”
Today’s question is one that Jesus asks. Was it meant to shame? I doubt it. Jesus put great effort into lifting people from shame and encouraging them to grow in his image. So why would Jesus ask, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?”
How would you answer him? And in the searching, what would you learn?
When I took training to be a coach, I learned that teachers “pour into” and a coach “pulls the answers out of the student.”
What answer would Jesus be hoping that you would discover? What lesson deeply understood?
R M Rilke wrote,
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the 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.”
A Prayer for today:
Ah, holy Jesus, you know the questions in our hearts before they are even on our lips. And you love us as a parent watching a child question the world in delight, awe and wonder, learning and growing. Grant us patience with ourselves and with others when it seems there are more questions than answers. For you are a patient God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Thank you, rabbi. Amen.