By DeWayne L. Davis
published in This Week at Plymouth
“Sometimes it’s not the right answers that we need, but the right questions that catch hold and stir us.” —Renita Weems, What Matters Most.
Before accepting the call to ministry, my career in politics was mostly about finding and supplying the right answers. To elected officials. To constituents. To colleagues. To lobbyists, activists, and advocates. My job was to find solutions and answers to policy questions and political challenges. And right answers and solutions meant more power, influence, and success. The shift to ministry and pursuing a theological education reoriented my thinking to the significance of asking the right questions. I welcomed that approach as the religious tradition of my youth did not welcome questions and viewed the Bible as a book of answers to every issue, problem, and challenge.
In recent years, many friends and colleagues have asked me what I thought about one issue or another they were confronting. I’ve been less willing to offer answers. After a conversation with a colleague a few days ago, they concluded jokingly but, in all seriousness, “Well, you didn’t give me an answer.” I didn’t. Instead, I asked a series of questions. Perhaps the answers we seek begin with better and more honest questions. In her powerful Bible study for helping women discover their passions, the theologian Renita Weems raises the possibility that waiting for answers to our challenges rather than reflecting on the questions posed to us may prevent us from seeing that God may have placed us “into situations where [we] must come to grips with [our] role in making [our] prayers a reality.” Our questions potentially hold within them the spark of memory, passion, and desire for what we truly need and want to make us come alive.
During the pandemic, when everything shut down and people were forced to stay home or give up their jobs, I suspect many had more questions than answers about their lives, hopes, and dreams. Coming out of the pandemic, I have heard many personal testimonies from people who looked at their lives, hopes, and plans, asking themselves pointed questions about what kind of life they wanted. What do I really want to do? What am I passionate about? What makes me come alive? Such questions stirred them into reflection, discernment, and action. As a result, I heard many stories from friends, family, and strangers of new careers, new passions, and new possibilities nourishing and revitalizing them. Given this experience, perhaps our prayers can be less about the pursuit of answers than about posing and confronting the right questions. Perhaps God’s perceived silence or absence in light of our deepest desires is God’s invitation to ask the right questions about ourselves to get back to who we truly are and want to be. I pray that you find the right questions to catch and stir you.
May it be so.