Monday, July 15, 2013

living the questions.

"You may not be able to formulate an ultimate life question right now.  Sometimes we feel so much fear and anxiety, and identify so closely with our suffering, that our pain masks the questions.  Once pain or confusion is framed and articulated by a question, it must be lived rather than answered.  The first task of seeking guidance then is to touch your own struggles, doubts, and insecurities--in short, to affirm your life as a quest...Our lives are not problems to be solved but journeys to be taken with Jesus as our friend and finest guide.

Thus, to receive spiritual help in time of need requires, first of all, not to deny but to affirm the search.  Painful questions must be raised, faced, and then lived.  This means that we must constantly avoid the temptation of offering or accepting simple answers, to be easy defenders of God, the Church, the tradition, or whatever we feel called to defend...Be careful when life's questions swirl around you in times of pain.  Beware of easy answers or guarantees.  Seek the companionship of others who will befriend you and listen as you live the questions of your life...The best guides are willing to be silent yet present, and are comfortable with unknowing.  God's Spirit is ultimately the sole source of spiritual guidance, comfort, and knowing.

The main questions for spiritual direction--Who am I?  Where have I come from?  And where am I going?  What is prayer?  Who is God for me?  How does God speak to me?  Where do I belong?  How can I be of service?--are not questions with simple answers but questions that lead us deeper into the unspeakable mystery of existence.  What needs affirmation is the validity of the questions.  What needs to be said is: 'Yes, yes indeed, these are the questions.  Don't hesitate to raise them.  Don't be afraid to enter them.  Don't turn away from living them.  Don't worry if you don't have a final answer on the tip of your tongue.'

The quest for meaning can be extremely frustrating and at times even excruciating, precisely because it does not lead to ready answers but to new questions.  When we realize the pain of the human search is a necessary growing pain, we can accept as good the forces of human spiritual development and be grateful for the journey on the long walk of faith.

To those with serious struggles and burning questions, I want to reach out with compassion and say: 'You seek answers to what cannot be fully known.  I don't know either, but I will help you search.  I offer no solutions, no final answers.  I am as weak and limited as you are.  But we are not alone.  Where there is charity and love, God is there.  Together, we form community.  Together we continue the spiritual search.'

When God enters into the center of our lives to unmask our illusion of possessing final solutions and to disarm us with always deeper questions, we will not necessarily have an easier or simpler life, but certainly a life that is honest, courageous, and marked with the ongoing search for truth.  Sometimes, in living the questions, answers are found.  More often, as our questions and issues are tested and mature in solitude, the questions simply dissolve."

Henri Nouwen, Spiritual Direction

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