A friend told me a long time ago that it was the unanswered questions that scared him most. He is an answerer, his wealth of knowledge is vast and he gets paid to answer people’s questions about faith and theology. “I fear being unable to answer a question for the lack of time or knowledge, or simply because the answer I give doesn’t satisfy,” he said.
I thought about what he said for a long time, a few years, and I’m thinking about it still.
This week I’m thinking about it because I saw a quote from a theologian. The quote was taken out of context and not linked back to the original context, thus painting him (and his ministry) in a negative light. If I hadn’t seen his name below the quote, well, I would’ve lost my faith in Jesus, humanity, and the Church if that’s all I knew of it right there. It was that bad.
But I am also an answerer—though mostly for myself and not for others. I cut and paste the quote, found its original source and wept through the entirety of the sermon because it was so beautifully about God being God and on His throne and loving us as only God can love.
Context can save your life.
But this isn’t what I told my friend the night he told me his fears. Instead I told him about the night I realized I didn’t believe in Jesus. I told him it was because I had spent a year asking hard, hard questions and not getting answers. It was because I read everything I could get my hands on, listened to sermons, read blogs, prayed, fasted, and still.
There isn’t much context for silence.
A friend told me recently she sits by her window, sits long and quiet, waiting for God to say something to her. Anything.
But what if He doesn’t? I ask her. And what if that’s okay?
This morning I’m thinking about the phrase “out of context.” It doesn’t mean the words said were incorrectly quoted or never said. It simply means out of the context in which they were intended. Without the whole picture. Apart from the whole.
And I’m thinking about God who is so much more sovereign and good and holy and set apart and whole than I will ever be or see. I am a soul out of context, a body apart from the whole, a mind void of completion. I am only a part and I see only in part. I exist in unanswered questions for the whole of my days and, Oh God, I pray He gives me more vision, more sight, more view into the whole, but what if He doesn’t?
At the end of my year of questions without answers, one night on my bedroom floor, I told God what I really believed about Him which was that I didn’t believe Him. Not at all. I told him what I thought I knew to be true was not true. And He began to show me what I thought to be true of Him was taken out of context, apart from the whole. Then He spent the next year drawing me back, helping me to see the whole, and how fully beautiful the whole was, even if it was still only part.
Context matters. It matters to theologians and babies, mothers and sons, it matters to good writing and better thoughts. It ought to matter to us because it matters to God. He is less concerned with us getting answers than He is with us seeing in wholeness that He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is God and we are not. He is full of mercy and justice, goodness and fury, grace and insight. He is Whole and we are only part.