Perhaps you’ve heard it said that life is a test, a test of character and integrity, of mental and emotional toughness, of grace under pressure. But to what end — to measure us comparatively with one another—comparative to a given standard? Who’s actually conducting this test – us; God . . . if we pass or fail, what then? The whole idea strikes me as insufferably meritorious, or like some academic experiment, as if we were nothing more than laboratory mice. Is this really what you think life is about?
Yet life does seem to have an endless supply of questions it incessantly proffers – questions spanning every scale and scope, leaving no area of our lives untouched. On one level these questions are just as random as the circumstances that seem to be serving them up, but on another level, as each question is boiled down to why that question even matters – we discover the unifying question of: Why does any of it matter? Which in turn, drills down to the ultimate question of: What is the whole point to life?
So if every question life throws at us is ultimately the same question about what we believe, then it only stands to reason that every answer should find its mooring in how we’ve chosen to answer that ultimate question. This is why I say life is a catechism, a pedagogy of Q & A, an open book test, as it were – because for the person of faith, discovering the answer is inextricably tied to remembering the answer. As a Christian, I have chosen to believe in the supremacy of all of who God is and what he is doing in the midst of his creation.
But remember this very question is hardly ever asked in a statically academic form. It takes on the dynamic of circumstance, in its various permutations. It may sneak into your life by taking on the shape of betrayal. It might hit you like a freight train with the unexpected death of a loved one. Or it may just be the slow and steady drip of a life that seems to be going nowhere. You’ll find it in the anthropological/ sociological shifts in cultural mores. And it’s decidedly woven into every relationship with which we engage. When you think about it, there literally are thousands of ways with which we are being asked the one question . . . a question we often aren’t even aware is being asked.
We best prepare ourselves for life, not by trying to anticipate every disparate question, but rather by immersing ourselves in the one answer we believe to be true. This isn’t so much about resisting intellectual honesty, as it is about becoming epistemologically self-aware . . . which is actually a higher form of intellectual honesty. It is to allow the meditation of our faith to frame our context, that we would recite the question until the answer sinks in deeper, to recite the question until the answer is given the preeminence it deserves . . . until we are completely remade by the answer.
I think this Buddy Miller song poses the question
most relevant to this season of Lent . . .