Sunday, September 7, 2014

Seek and Ye Shall Find?

While I try to have my Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Twitter, and various social networks fool my followers into presuming the contrary, I can usually be found most nights on my couch in my Snuggie watching Jeopardy and going to bed at geriatric hours. (I am fully aware that I am fooling no one.)

In the spirit of my geriatric Jeopardy watching habits (and the subject matter for this post), I have entitled this blogpost in the form of a question. For anyone who is a Jeopardy watcher knows: woe to the person who falters in their question-answer, lest they face the wrath of Alex Trebek.

I feel that this picture best sums up Alex and the frightening National Treasure that he is...

This post is about questions. And more importantly, how those questions can help us grow in our faith. 

You may not even have felt the need to ask this question, but yes. I am back at school. And yes, the school year is off to a good start. The routine of teaching is almost old hat now- this now being my FIFTH year- but I am grateful for my students and for the prompting of the Holy Spirit for always keeping even the most routine curriculum interesting. 

I like to begin my sophomore course with an excerpt from a US Bishops' document on "Living Faith." I've probably mentioned it here before, because this is now my ninth semester teaching this course (ahhh...WHAT). It discusses that faith should be "living and active" and suggests some things that adults should do to foster their faith. 

One of the things that the bishops' suggest is to question. I always ask my students if they are surprised that the bishops would want us to question our faith. This year in particular, the students had much to say about this point, but not in the way that I expected. Usually students think that questioning could lead to the person leaving (not living) their faith or the students are apathetic entirely. This year, most of the kids were totally on board and agreed that questioning our faith is really the only way for our faith to grow, and I agree.

There is a danger when our faith becomes stagnant. Whether that be thinking that we know everything there possibly is to know about our faith and that we are sooooo holy and don't possibly need to learn anything more OR that we completely reject everything that we've heard and don't care to learn more. We can't grow if we are stagnant, so we must continually search and ask questions. 

One of my students even gave me new insight into a Scripture passage that I thought I had down. She mentioned the parable of Jesus saying that we need to have faith like a child. We often interpret this story to mean that we need to just accept and trust like a child, but she pointed out that kids are often asking questions: "Why? Why? WHY?" Amirite? So in order to have faith- faith like a child- we need to question. 
I thought that was brilliant. I'm so grateful that I have a job that nourishes me in my own faith.

The other piece that comes with questioning, though, is that we have to be open to an answer. Jesus also says, "Ask and you shall receive. Knock and the door shall be opened." I, personally, have nooooo problems asking the questions, but it is trusting the answer that gets me. 

When a child asks a question, he or she trusts that you have the answer. They ask and then they accept. For me, it is not the questioning that is hard, but the acceptance. I have to trust that when I seek, when I ask, I will be given an answer and that it will be the answer that I was looking for.

I am forever asking the question: "Am I living it right?" (a la John Mayer "Why Georgia" circa 2002, of course)

Interestingly enough, neither Alex Trebeck nor John Mayer are men known for their humility or patience...

 And there's that temptation to look forward and backwards and say "if only" instead of trusting that God is doing His work right now in the present. I know this is a struggle for those of us who are single, but I've encountered it with some of my married friends with families, too. When I visit high school friends from Ohio, some of them do express concern with not having ever really left the town we grew up in. And likewise, I wonder if I could've done something differently to achieve the settled, stable status that they have acquired which seems to be the "American Dream."

But we know that comparing ourselves and asking those types of questions don't necessarily help us move forward. Those types of questions can actually make us become quite stagnant. They are helpful if they help us to accept where we are or move forward. They are not helpful if they make us quit searching as I discussed with my students earlier. 

I do question if I am sometimes off of the path that God has laid out for me. But it is this question that also keeps me coming back to Him. While many of my friends have found that great love of their life, I am reminded that my great love has been with God and His Church. He has taken me from Ohio to DC, to Guatemala to Spain, to NoVA to Greece to Poland. I've traveled all over this country meeting people in His Church through volunteer programs and have even gotten an inside glimpse on the vocation of religious life. And like that image of the child, I need to trust that God is taking me where I need to go.

When I question where I am and where I am going, the answer does ultimately bring me back to Him. So I must trust that my questions will continue to be answered in His way and in His Time as He has so many times before. 

I'm grateful for the journey The Lord has taken me on and that He continues to honor my questions with the love and patience of a Father and Friend. May we all learn to be patient with one another in our questions and with ourselves, but never stop searching.