A couple of weeks ago I attended a service being led by a minister that I have only met once before, in passing. After the communion at the service we were asked to remain standing at the front as there was enough room for everyone at the service as it had been decided that the minister was going to pray over each person in turn. Whilst it was suggested that this was optional, the wording meant that actually it wasn’t* and, in any case, the get-out was ignored. I was told that it was “sensed” that I had unanswered questions. At this point I need to explain that I did actually want to accept this as revelation from God, I really did. And actually to begin with I kinda did – because you know what I do have unanswered questions. And I tried not to be cynical. I tried to just accept it. But then I got thinking, as I tend to do. Actually which Christian do I know that doesn’t have unanswered questions? In fact which human being do I know that doesn’t have unanswered questions? Not only that but I know that I looked uncomfortable at times during the service. And I couldn’t help but think about some of the other things that had been “sensed” and actually how apparent that actually were due to different people’s role, age etc.
I have since spoken to a friend who says that they feel that they, in the past, have “sensed” things but upon reflection see that this has been little more than reading people. I want to believe in that God does act in such ways but people make it hard for me to do so. I believe that people don’t think they are misleading, I believe that people think they are genuinely “sensing” things rather than reading people, and I believe that people are acting with the best of intentions. But I also believe that if God wanted to speak there are far more profound things that he would ask someone to speak into my life (how about answering some of those questions rather than informing me that I have them – in case I hadn’t noticed).
But this wasn’t supposed to be a post about that, it got me thinking about unanswered questions. I was talking about this to a friend as I felt uneasy about my reaction. As I said “but which Christian doesn’t have unanswered questions” they replied “but the difference for you is that you are comfortable with questions being unanswered”. And this is true. I have come to a place in my faith where questions and unanswered questions are ok. Certainty is not needed – is that not the point in faith? I don’t need to know all the answers . I like the fact that some questions have several possible answers. I love that Christianity can become a journey of discovery rather than a list of accepted answers to be remembered.
This got me thinking about a talk that I saw Brian McClaren do at Greenbelt last year, in which he outlined what he saw to be the 4 stages of faith. I found the presentation that he used (here). I identify as being stage 3 (“perplexity”) with one or two traits of stage 4 (“harmony”) which I suppose makes sense as we move on through the stages. Brian seemed keen to point out that it’s not the case that certain stages should be seen as better or worse but that they are stages that we all go through at our own pace, and all stages have something to teach us. Certain churches and denominations work in particular stages without really allowing the room to grow and move into the next stage. The aim isn’t to rush through the stages to get to four but rather to move at our natural pace through the stages. And so I need to forgive those who want certainty and who view things dualistically and act accordingly. And in turn they need to forgive me for being cynical and for valuing questions over answers, rejecting their certainty. And we all need to forgive one another for often not being able to understand where the other is coming from.
Sorry I know that this post in appallingly written, it wasn’t really planned before writing other than knowing that it would be something about unanswered questions so for anything that makes little sense or just reads weirdly I apologise!
*I’m considering another post about the ways in which things aren’t as optional as they seem to explain this a bit better.