i carry this book of questions around school most days. in fact, it is literally called “the book of questions.” when i was on the verge of a new friendship, that person came up to me after class and asked about the book. i asked her a question from the book in lieu of an explanation. after she answered, she said something along the lines of “maybe we could do one every day.” i can’t really pinpoint the exact moment we became friends, but i think that moment around that book marked the start of our commitment to give this friendship thing a shot. since then i’ve asked her a lot of questions, some from out of the book and some from out of my own desire to get to know her. it started with a question, and now i can’t really imagine this semester without her.
the thing is that for the past three months i’ve lived in fear of questions. i’ve lived in fear of questions because i thought they meant my faith was less than it used to be. and every day i have a certain question that spins around in my mind through every minute of every hour. i can’t shake it. at best i can distract myself from it, but even in that i usually come up short. and more often than i’d like to admit, the question draws out the tears i try so hard to keep safe inside.
why did He have to let my mom die?
the reason i thought my faith was less is because i used to be able to read the bible with the kind of delight that i don’t think most people ever experience. i would read the words and trust God without ever thinking twice about it. between His immutability and His faithfulness, i was convinced God was incapable of doing anything other than sticking to His word. He had proved Himself faithful, and it is impossible for Him to change from that faithfulness. so i savored His words like they were the sweetest thing i had ever tasted because they were. for me, they were.
i trusted Him when He said He works all things together for my good.
i trusted Him when He said He is kind in all His works.
i trusted Him when He said He was powerful beyond words.
but, on this side of grief and sorrow and loss, my time with Him is different. my pleasure in Him has been replaced by confusion about Him. i don’t get out of bed with ease at the thought of reading my bible first thing in the morning. instead, i struggle to even get out of bed, and when i finally do, i approach the Word with hesitation. i approach the Word with hesitation because i just don’t know what verse i’ll read that will make me doubt who He is or what He promises to do. i approach the Word with hesitation because all of those things i believed so easily before are now qualified by the same question: what about mom?
this past weekend i decided it was time to start talking about all of these doubts and questions and hesitations that i’ve been carrying around for weeks now. so when my friend steph asked me how i was doing, i decided to give her a long, honest answer. i trusted her because i’m pretty sure she’ll be standing next to me if i ever manage to get married one day. and i trusted her because she’s seen me at my worst and never looked at me any differently. and it was in the safety of her living room that i was met with a glimpse at my first step forward out of all of this darkness.
you see, another thing that makes it really hard for me to read my bible now is that my bible has all these underlines and notes in the margin. i can look through my bible and see all the passages that meant something to me over the years, and i can see in the margins all the things God has taught me along the way about His character. and as i’d read through those pages in this season, it crushed me to come up empty, to feel nothing, to sit in silence in those pages. now i feel like i have to relearn Him. i feel like i have to relearn Him because i came out of those pages with a misunderstanding of His goodness towards me and His love for me. i have to see Him again now on this side of sorrow. and i have to let Him show me that He is still good and worth trusting even though i don’t feel it at all. and i just didn’t know how to relearn Him in those pages full of reminders of all we used to be.
so, without realizing she was doing anything groundbreaking, steph suggested i get a new bible. i pushed back at the thought of it because i didn’t really know what i’d do with a new bible full of blank space in the margins. i told her i thought all i could really do now in this particular season was fill that blank space with question marks. and she told me she thought that that would be okay. and it was then that i realized that she might be right. it just might be okay to have a bible full of question marks. and it just might be okay for me to be having all of these questions.
as my favorite movie states, “we may not be as happy as you always dreamed we would be, but for the first time let’s just allow ourselves to be whatever it is we are, and that will be better. i think that will be better.”
yes, i hope this will be better.
because it was also then that i realized i didn’t need to live in fear of questions. i don’t need to live in fear of questions because my faith isn’t less now that i have them. in fact, i think the opposite just might be true. because i’m learning that faith isn’t the absence of questions. faith is moving forward in spite of the questions. i have hard questions now. i have unanswered questions now. and i think i have this faith now that is greater than any faith i ever could have imagined because although i am still so very sad and my heart is still so very broken, i am still moving. yes, i am still moving.
the thing is i’ve got this new friend now. i’ve got this new friend now, and i think all of the questions have been good for us. i think they make us closer. and i find myself kind of missing it on the days we don’t get around to opening that book i have that is full of them. because i feel like on those days i really miss out on getting to know her better. because the better days are the days i just take out the book of questions and ask her one. and if it seems like the time or if it seems like my place, then i ask her some other questions. and sometimes i really can learn a lot about her just by taking a little time to do that. and sometimes i really wonder what i’d be missing out on about her if i was too afraid to ever ask a question. in fact, i wonder if we’d really even be friends at all. like i said, i don’t know when our friendship started, but i think it’s all these questions that are keeping us growing. and i really like the thought of that.
so i can only hope that this will be like that. i’ll just start by asking God some questions. and i’ll see if He answers — i’ll wait for Him to answer. and when the time is right or when it’s my place, i’ll ask some more. and i’ll just try to get to know Him again instead of feeling like i’m missing out on Him and all we used to be. yes, i’ll just try to get to know Him again.
and i’ve got this new bible now. and it’s turning into my new book of questions. and i’m okay with that. because my faith is stronger now than it has ever been. and i have a feeling God just might meet me in those margins somewhere between all of the question marks. and i plan on taking my pen to the pages until He does.
today’s margin note: faith is not the absence of questions, but moving forward in spite of them. don’t be afraid to ask God questions because He wants us to get to know Him. and don’t be afraid to ask your friends questions because He wants us to get to know them too. and you just might be surprised with how much goodness is on the other side of some of your question marks.