Questions are important and good. It's healthy to wonder about birds and rocks and God and existence. Lean toward questions. Ponder them. Ask them aloud. Encourage them in others.
Our quandaries don't represent a lack of faith; they reveal courage and curiosity. Plenty of our wonderings may not have clear answers. That's fine because mysteries are lovely, too.
I am inspired by people who ask questions at church. It helps create a culture of engagement where everyone knows it's OK not to know it all. The questions can happen before or after worship or in Bible study or Sunday school or during coffee hour or in the church parking lot. We can ask them to each other or the pastor or a mentor or a child. Nurturing a culture where questions are welcome is a way to create a safe space for spiritual journeyers of every age.
A couple times a month I fill in for pastors who need to be away for a Sunday. It's life-giving and energizing for me. It's also a nice way to keep a pulse on parish life now that I work at the denominational level instead of in a congregation.
One Sunday after worship while everyone was exiting the sanctuary, I stood shaking hands with folks at the door. A family of three took my breath away with their bold question courage.
They began by introducing themselves and then shared that they were visiting the church for the first time. After some brief, casual conversation, they brought forth a question they had been pondering.
"We are studying the New Testament as a family, and we have some questions about Paul. Some of the things he says really bother us. We want to know more about him."
I stood amazed and then said, "I'm grateful to meet you. Yes, some of the things he says bother me, too. Let's continue this conversation."
I finished shaking hands with the rest of the line, and then our chat continued. It was a meaningful conversation in which we shared thoughts and added even more questions to the simmering stew. I expressed some of my perspectives on Paul, his letters and his historical context with the caveat I don't have any perfect answers (side note: No one does). They asked if we could continue the conversation along the way. I said, "Absolutely." A question doesn't need to have a perfect answer in order to be worth asking.
The family then visited with other members of the church and had a chance to learn more about the congregation. A family of faith is more than a space to ask questions; it's a space to build community. Our questions are part of that. As we build relationships, serve our neighbors and spread a spirit of peace, our spiritual ponderings add flavor to the mix.
I have never thought of religious leaders as "keepers of answers." Some people might believe that, but I don't. I don't think of librarians or parents or teachers or mentors as keepers of answers either. Instead, I imagine all of us to be curators of curiosity. We get to nurture spaces where people are free to wonder together. It is an honor and a privilege to do this holy work. As humans, it is work to which I believe we all are invited.
Doesn't that take some pressure off? It's OK to say, "I don't know." Even and especially within the walls of a church. Good follow-ups to "I don't know" include "Let's learn together" and "I wonder that, too."
May we all be curators of curiosity. May we receive questions gracefully. May we ask questions courageously. And may we always be willing to learn, unlearn and relearn along the way.