There are several questions that we begin asking at a very early age and then continue asking throughout our lives. Everyone is familiar with the two or three year old child who responds to some request with, “Why?” And then no matter what you say over the next few minutes it is like they are stuck in a broken loop, unable to say anything in response except to repeat the same thing over and over, “Why?”
I believe it is the beginning of a child’s attempt to work out for themselves the world they have begun to realize is totally separate from them, the other. The “why” comes after the “no” which is their first attempt to see if separateness is real. Once they realize that they are independent, then suddenly their safe and orderly world is a thing of the past and they have an urgent need to know the why of things, to figure out a way that they can begin to construct a new sense of how they fit into things.
That begins a journey, which for some people is relatively short, but for others lasts a lifetime. Some of us never seem to fit perfectly anywhere we go, anywhere we are. Our whys seem to lead not to resolution but new questions as we labor to build a sense of coherency out of the world around us. Even if we become Christians, our encounter with Christ serves on one level to open an even wider world for us to try and make sense of, filled with even deeper mysteries and disconnects of the first order.
Yet, no matter how many truths we uncover, no manner how many answers we find, they are like just one more step down a long maze of fractured understanding. It is as if we are looking at a reflection in a mosaic mirror made of hundreds of shards of former mirrors set in uneven relationship, so that we never have a clear and accurate picture of who, what, and where we are, how we got here and where we are headed. Job did everything right but still did not understand why the things that happened to him occurred and it seems, neither do we.
I guess this all began with our first forbearer, Adam. I have this mental picture of him after taking the bite of the fruit Eve has just brought him. Barely does the juice squirt between his teeth when a dark revelation shoots through his being. He suddenly knows so much. Looking down past the fruit still between his teeth he sees that he is naked and glancing across at Eve realizes that she too is uncovered.
At that moment a question begins to form in his mind that up to that point had never existed, there was no reason. As knowledge suddenly begins filling up every nook and cranny of his thoughts, he realizes that this rush of knowing lacks an important component, the connection that gives meaning to this flood of facts, and in response his mind is filled with one overweening thought that drives out all others, yet connects to every one of them: Why?
Why am I naked? Why did I eat the fruit? Why did Eve listen to the serpent? Why didnt I resist? Why? Why? Why? Thus begins the attempt to unravel the meaning behind our sense of separateness and how we fit into things once that has been grasped. From that point forward, existence is like an eternal onion that no matter how many whys we take off, no matter how many layers, there is another one inside.
I remember one of my favorite songs from my early Christian days, For Those Tears I Died. Verse two ends with the penultimate question.
Your goodness so great
I can’t understand
And dear Lord I know
That all this was planned
I know You’re here now
And always will be
Your love loosed my chains
And in You I’m free
But Jesus why me?
Where is all of this going? I guess it is going to my overwhelming desire to hear Jesus say to me “Come…” Not just for the joy of eternity within the family of God and all that entails, but at last being in the position to ask “Why?” and get the real undistorted answer, to know as I am known and no longer see through a mirror darkly. Sometimes when I am struggling with my faith, “Why?” becomes an aid to perseverance, since if I give up I will never get the answer.
So, if you are at all like me, struggling with the same struggle, take solace in that you are not alone and there is hope, for in Christ the answer resides and will be available. Grace and peace.
P.S. Sometimes you shouldn’t write around midnight, especially on such fundamental things as “Why?” 😉
Update: Katrina and why? Who knows? Jollyblogger has a post in which the comments are testing the boundaries of Chrisitan understanding and civility. One thing is certain, God knows and is sovereign. We need to demonstrate our Christianity in the manner Jesus noted would show the world that we were his faithful followers, by acting with love (personal self-sacrifice) and compassion. Just do it (with apologies to Nike).