I read an article in The Christian Century that intrigues and prods me. The author mentioned a minister he knew who once posted questions on a giant bulletin board as a way to get discussions going — an idea that spurred the author of the article I was reading (Steve Wilco) to try it in the campus center cafeteria of his college. I like this idea! It’s so provocative and invitational!
I can see it in my imagination: a large white poster board propped up on a round cafeteria table, a man in jeans and a sweater sitting at the table with a cup of coffee and a felt tip marker. On the poster board in large black letters is the printed question: “What are you afraid of?” I picture the man looking expectantly at students as they drift by his table and glance over at him and his outsized sign. In the article, Wilco said that while he was hoping for a conversation, no one sat down or talked to him, but a lot of them began conversations with each other about the question as they passed by. Good enough!
This idea reminded me of the plan I had with my first attempt at a blog some three years ago. I thought I’d start each post with a “life-question” and just muse about it. That died on the vine due to extreme shyness (mine), and the blog never materialized past the first posting. But now I’m thinking, why not try again? As a pastor I was always posing big life questions from the pulpit and in small groups, and there seems to be something in me that wants to encourage that kind of conversation – whether it’s with a trusted friend, or with oneself, or with God. I want to help people get in touch with the important things: how they see their lives, what moves them, what holds them back, and what is inviting them to take some new step. More than that, I hope someone else will have the kind of life-giving “aha!” that I’ve occasionally had as I’ve pondered an important but ignored question and pursued it to its depths.
I remember asking one such question of my congregation in the middle of a sermon, in a kind of guided community meditation. I asked one simple question, slowly; paused long enough for thoughts to rise; and repeated it 7 or 8 times until it felt like we were finished. Afterward a young woman (a teenager) came up to me, obviously moved, to tell me that the experience had been important for her. I could see that it had blessed her in some way that I didn’t need to understand. It made me happy! It was enough.
I have asked many such questions in the same way of my own life. I’ve often been surprised to hear each successive answer, and the last ones to rise in my mind invariably taught me something important about how I live my life and how I want to live it — something I wouldn’t have noticed or paid attention to if I hadn’t embraced the question.
So, here’s my invitation to you. Here are some of the questions you might consider today:
• What are you afraid of?
• What are you waiting for?
• Where do you think you are going?
• A companion question: Where do you want to go?
• What does love look like to you?
• Who do you think you are?
• What are the obstacles that are keeping you stuck?
• (And the wonderful question that Jesus asked of those who came to him; imagine the question comes from whoever or whatever seems to be the source of power and authority in your life): What do you want me to do for you?
I find that the really important questions can take us deeper the more we are willing to go past our first, quick answers. Deeper into our own lives is an important place to go. So if you’re willing, choose a question, answer it, and then repeat it, listening carefully for each answer until you hear some fresh truth rise into awareness. If you’re surprised, so much the better. When we are surprised by the answers, we’re beginning to get to a place of real growth and possibility.
May you find your life and live it fully. Live the blessing!