Unanswered questions shaped my recent retreat and continue to linger in my journals and contemplative talks with God.
I am a fixer and quick decider. I like the comfort of knowing answers or at least the next couple of steps on this adventure and gift of life God has given all of us. Tell me where I am going and what to expect and I will dig down and get there.
But that isn’t God’s way, is it?
Unanswered questions are the fertile ground of growth, formation, and surprises. I wonder why does this question nag my soul? What does it mean? What does it make possible? The best lessons emerge in the wrestling, welcoming, and wondering with each question.
I am going to be vulnerable and share with you this week some of these questions I am holding and listening to in this journey. I hope maybe they will resonate with you too and nurture your walk with God.
What makes me sing and jump for joy?
Why would I throw away an opportunity to serve Jesus?
3-5 years from now what do I want my day to look like? I don’t want to arrive at the end of my life with regrets.
What do I actually want/seek right now? Need? What am I longing for the most in this season?
What makes my heart full? What is life-giving to my soul?
What feels missing right now?
What stops me from drawing close to God?
Is it my ego, Lord, or is it your will?
What are my places of emptiness? My desert? My wilderness?
What would it look like for me to stop working so hard and trust God to work his way in his time?
I read and reread these questions. One will pop up and I journal about it. They brew like a good cup of coffee or seep in my soul like tasty tea.
When I first stumble into the question about joy, I was frustrated and sad that I didn’t have an answer. But in the past few weeks since wrestling and grieving this question, joy appears. I see them like sparkles on the ground or finding a penny on the sidewalk. I run and pick it up, capturing it and savoring its essence. Something will surprise me and I think – “Ah-ha – there is a joy for my list!”
I find joy in the process of finding joy: blueberries, peaches, trees and flowers, my backyard, the beach, watching the waves, checking items off my to-do list, creating, writing in my journal, music, travel, Bill, feathers, birds soaring. And the list continues to grow.
Joy is the bridge to living and savoring life’s moments with abundant love and in wild abandonment.
See why I am learning more from unanswered questions than knowing with certainty all the answers. This is a tough lesson to learn, isn’t it?
“Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
What unanswered question would you add to the list or which question resonates most with you?
Linda Stoll says
‘Unanswered questions are the fertile ground of growth, formation, and surprises.’
I love that you’ve reframed the nebulous to the positive, friend!
Jean Wise says
Thanks Linda. I am learning more by staying with the question rather than rushing into what I think are the answers.
Lisa notes says
I appreciate these hard questions, Jean. You’re wading into deep waters. A hard question I currently have is at which church does God want me to be. For now we’re continuing where we left off before the pandemic, even though decisions were made there during the pandemic that I didn’t agree with. Unless God shows me otherwise, though, that’s probably where we’ll stay, but I do have the question on the table again.
Love the quote: “Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
Jean Wise says
These questions are shaping and leading me right now. Thanks for saying about deep waters. That is a good reminder to me as I want the answers now. I think many are struggling with church right now. God is shaking up the traditions we cling to so tightly!!
Nancy Ruegg says
These two questions intrigued me: What makes my heart full? What is life-giving to my soul? I just read recently (‘Wish I could find it again!) something about taking note of what God has given (gifts, talents, joy in certain activities, etc.) and you’ll know what God wants you to do. I DID find a similar quote from Max Lucado: “God’s design defines your destiny.” In this retirement-chapter of life it is time with family and friends, Bible study on my own or with friends, encouraging others, and writing that seem to make my heart full and give life to my soul. I am trusting God to bring together my pleasure with his pleasure, and to steer me back on course if I start to wander.
Jean Wise says
Isn’t there such power to unanswered questions? Mertons’ prayer about wanting to please God and knowing just the attitude of wanting to please God, pleases him. gives me comfort when I am not sure what to do or if I am heading in the right direction, Amazing how just the right quote – a bit of wisdom – sends us hope and in the right direction.
Martha Jane Orlando says
God is the God of the unanswered questions, Jean, but He ever leads us to find those moments of joy in the simplest of things. It’s all about being open to His presence and His lead in our lives.
Jean Wise says
Pat Forsman says
Thank you jean…always appreciate your challenges….my question is…im 76yrs..having been a preschool teacher for over 30yrs and am still a sub…is there more to this age bracket than smelling a flower or noticing a bugs antenna??…and of course the uplifting question…how will i be kicking the bucket???…jean…youre a writer…write…write for us old ladies…!!!!!!!….theres not much out there for old ladies with God…
Jean Wise says
I find sharing my challenges and experiences helps me grow too and I hope help others name and grow also. congrats of your long service as a teacher such a needed and wonderful profession. Thanks for your encouragement and kind words. Remember Psalm 92: 14: Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.