“What is your question? Your question for today?” my wise friend asked me gently.
“I can only choose one?” I asked nervously.
Do questions swirl in your mind like dry leaves on a blustery day, thick and unsettling? Maybe your questions are more blizzard-like–a blinding morass keeping you from moving forward? Then maybe this question is also for you.
“What is your question?”
My questions were thick and controlling. The harder I looked for answers, the more control the questions had and the more out-of-control my heart and mind felt.
Here’s a peek into a few of the questions that had me spinning: What do I do with my career? What church should I be going to? Would I want to become an Episcopalian? What do I really need to know about Jesus? Would God actually send people to hell? Does God love me? Does God really love the whole world? What should I do when my kids go to school? Should I go back to school? Do you think God is even real? Will I ever practice law again? Will I ever want to do that again? Are there any happy INFP lawyers out there? Is there any kind of church that I would fit in? Is it okay that I’m not going to church anymore? Do you know what I’m supposed to do? Do you know what I’m supposed to believe? Am I going to hell for having so many questions? That would suck, wouldn’t it? What should I make for supper tonight? Why can’t I keep my house clean? Am I ruining my children? What am I supposed to be doing with my life?
Okay, we’re going to close that door now. It’s an exhausting way to live.
What is the question that I need for today?
On that May day a few years back, the question that was mine dropped into my lap from the pen of John O’Donohue. I know I’ve shared it before, but it’s a good one and I’ll probably share it again. “How am I supposed to be?” That was my question. It wasn’t even on my list, but it was what I needed to know. “How am I supposed to be?” was my question to live into.
Somehow, after identifying my one question, the swirling storm of incessant questions receded–still unanswered, but no longer controlling my heart or mind. In the peace and transformation that followed in the wake of all of these unanswered questions, I’ve realized that my knowing the answers isn’t as important or urgent as I once thought.
In fact, maybe the most important part of identifying my one question was the next step: Asking it.
Not just asking it to anybody. Not just searching for the answers in church, books, sages, and friends. But asking God directly: “How am I supposed to be?”
You’d think that a person brought up in church and taught to pray from the time words could escape her mouth would remember that God wants us to ask. Invites us to ask.
We find words like this in scripture:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked the blind beggar, inviting him to articulate his heart’s desire or actually to state the obvious. (Luke 18:41).
Maybe God is asking us the same thing.
Somehow, I forgot that God invites our questions. And when we ask God our questions, we need to listen for the answers. We need to keep our hearts, minds, eyes, and ears wide open. We need to pay attention. Sometimes the answers tumble into place, and sometimes the wait is long and slow.
I’ve heard somewhere that God answers prayer in 3 ways: Yes, No, and Not Yet. If these are the only possible answers to our prayers, I’m afraid that we’re not asking the right kinds of questions. Instead, we’re treating God like a traffic signal, a magic 8 ball, or some genie waiting around to grant our wishes even if they are wishes for good, good things.
Let’s not limit our questions to God to those that can be answered by yeses and nos. What if God is inviting us into a conversation? Maybe the long, slow wait is the best place for this kind of conversation to take place. A back and forth. An asking and listening. A dance of giving and receiving. Learning to trust. Learning to love and be loved. Ask and receive. Seek and find. Walk humbly.
One way that we can enter this conversation is to quiet and open our minds and our hearts. Set aside the time and space to ask yourself and to ask God: What is my one question? What question do I need today?
Pick your question. Or wait for it to pick you.
Then offer it back to God, and start noticing all of the ways that God is answering that question for you.