I now know that questions are key in any change process, vital even. Unless you start to question, things will likely stay the same. Questions are disruptive creatures. They have a habit of wriggling into your carefully constructed life causing all manner of mess. They wriggle at your foundations and the façade everyone sees. They push their way to your boundaries and edges and generally turn the boxes you have ordered your life in, into paper mache.
But mess and disruption are the ingredients of change. And so questions become your friend not the enemy.
In every relationship or system, in your faith journey or marriage journey or in the walking out of what it means to be you, you will have a wriggling question in there somewhere. Probably more than one.
I know this because a question (which sometimes feels like a doubt) has started every bit change I ever had. I work as a life coach, and in each and every client – it’s always a question that starts the ball rolling.
what if I’m heading in the wrong direction?
what if I get this wrong?
what if I need to leave my marriage/job/church/identity?
what if all I was taught is wrong?
what if God’s not real?
and so on…
People usually play whack-a-mole with their questions. As soon as one pop up they whack it on the head with a certainty or a pat phrase they were taught or with distraction or numbing behaviours.
One of the big questions that wriggled up its head in the past years of my faith deconstruction was what if God is not the intellectual property of Christians? You see, the Christian world view I was raised in was based on a central belief that ‘we’ were right and everyone else out there – religious or otherwise – was wrong about God. The fact that I was born into a certain country at a certain time that held a Christian worldview that I was doused in from birth in one way or another was a strange fact. You see I happen to have been born into a likelihood of heaven, and salvation, and rightness. Meanwhile people born on the other side of the world who were doused in a different worldview frankly didn’t stand a chance. It took very little for me to find ‘the right path’. I was born with one foot on it by simply being a White Westerner. It seemed my faith (and this the question of eternal torment or bliss) was a postcode lottery.
And try as I might, the questions of whether my religion had taken God hostage for my type of people in my postcode wouldn’t shift.
If you’re from my spiritual tradition you’ll get this is a big question. By now you’re either nodding in agreement as that question is raised, recognising the same discomfort with the ‘Christianity is the only way to God’ narrative – or you think I’m a raging heretic and you’re gonna leave an angry comment at the bottom about me leading people straight to hell (because angry Christians y’all). This was a big question and one I whack-a-moled for a long time as I too believed asking this question was a fast track to eternal damnation. I pushed it down and hid from it and numbed from it until I could no longer.
Then I asked the question.
There were no thunder bolts striking me down, and in all honesty I felt God give a sigh of relief that I’d finally come out with the damn question. ‘Sure’ ,God seemed to say ‘what if you guys made this way too hard for people not like you to find me? What if I’m not yours to put in a box?’ Gulp.
The honest reality is that asking big questions is scary. The ground feels a little less certain than it once did. You have a sense that if you ask this one, whatever the answer, there are likely a bucket load more that will tumble out. It is the start of the unravelling, you can sense it, and even the brave amongst us know that unravelling a whole life, a whole faith, a whole identity, a whole relationship, a whole way of being in the world IS NOT EASY.
So, my darlings, get your brave on.
Also, no-one is asking you to do all the questions all the time. It may feel like your whole world will cave in, but it won’t. The floor will shift, but maybe that floor needs to. All a question does is loosen things up, and when there’s space created from the loosening, light can finally get into some old stuffy spaces. Questions won’t kill you. but they will make you uncomfortable (and, depending on the question, maybe a touch unpopular).
Ask your question.
Then give it space.
The first time you ask it, it will be brand new in your mouth and your heart. It will be a tiny helpless newborn that needs to wriggle its legs before it has and strength to it. You’ll have to give yourself space to let it breathe, and probably ask it a tonne more times.
And then you wait.
Not in a distracted, numbing waiting stance. But in the way a mother waits for her baby to find its feet, then its path, then its way. You hold it tenderly, you let it try and stumble for a while. You may read a book or two, test it out with others. You watch and wait and feed it and nurture it until you’re not scared of its vulnerability anymore. You stay with it until it finds its feet.
Your answer likely wont come in one giant glob of new certainty. Nope – that’s the old way. It will come in ideas and wisps of thought in tiny threads of the new thing you will one day weave together. You will unravel and then you will recreate something new in time. And one day you’ll realise that question doesn’t terrify you anymore, it’s normal for you, it’s familiar. And there’s probably a new thing wriggling round the edges waiting to be asked.
A few things… just because its not new to you anymore, doesn’t mean its not new to those around you. Remember how scary that question once seemed to you? That same question is just as scary to someone else for whom it’s new. Be tender with people. Also, have no assumptions on your answer – who knows where this will lead you? Simply let the question out with no agenda of where it will go. The question just wants to be asked.
So ask away about your faith or your marraige or about whether you are using your life well and wisley. Ask about your future or your identity or whether you got that thing totally wrong.
Its time for a whole new wriggling vulnerable life to begin; and it starts with a question.
What question do you need to ask?