This past Sunday, I started our Confirmation classes for the year with six students. As an introductory exercise, I had them write down some things they thought people in the church believed on a small piece of poster board. Then, I had them write down what they believed on a piece of paper. I picked up the poster board and shredded it and threw it in the trash can. Then, I had the students do the same with their pieces of paper. I told them that the purpose of confirmation was for them to start again with their faith. It is chance to really dig beneath the surface of what they have been taught to see the why, the how, the what, and come to their own understanding of the faith. Maybe they come back to same answers as before, maybe not. The important thing is it is a chance for them to learn to ask good questions about what they believe.
I think many of us when we were younger were told not to doubt, not to question, just to believe. It was almost as if God wasn’t big enough to answer questions about himself or take questioning. We were told to seek a relationship with God but only on God’s terms and only in the way that a terrified child seeks a relationship with a volatile parent. Don’t do anything that might anger God – like doubt or question – or we would find ourselves losing our faith. For that matter, if we asked too many questions, we might end up being a doubter or worse, an atheist.
For a long time, I believed this and then I left the church. If the God I was presented with wasn’t big enough to face me and answer my questions, it wasn’t much of a God. After a bit of soul searching and wandering, I came to an interesting conclusion: God was plenty big enough to answer my questions; the church wasn’t. Look at the bible: Moses doubted God could turn him into a leader; Gideon doubted God’s wisdom in attacking their enemies; Job questioned all kinds of things and even Jesus on the cross said, “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me!” Jesus even said during the Sermon on the Mount, “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” The church I knew was afraid, afraid that answering the questions might butcher their sacred cows or create questions they couldn’t answer. I decided I didn’t want to go to that kind of church and as I grew in faith and was led into the ministry, I decided I didn’t want to be that kind of pastor.
So, people of God, young and old, ask your questions, seek your answers. God is big enough to answer. We have to be mature enough to accept the answers. We have to let ourselves be challenged in order to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” and sometimes there is definitely fear and trembling.
So, ask. You will never get the answers if you don’t.