27 April 2012

on the importance of why

This coming week I have a little girl who is turning three years old.  She is the middle of three children, and her development is full of those things that make three year olds the fascinating little people that they are.  If birthdays give time to pause about one's own life, I have found that the birthdays of my children are even greater opportunity for reflection.

As I consider where my daughter is in life, it is noticeable that she is entering into that phase where "Why?" seems to follow most any information she receives.  Until we reach the Why Stage, we simply accept the world for what it is and how it is presented to us.  It is a marvelous world and, as Rich Mullins once penned: There's so much beauty around us, but just two eyes to see . . . But everywhere I go, I'm looking.  That is the wonderful discovery that shapes the life of a child.

Now, if we are to believe that Jesus called us to be as children (which I do), and that our greatest failure comes from being unwilling to be what we were made to be (which it is), then there is a valuable spiritual lesson for us in the three-year-old experience.  When we embark on a spiritual journey we simply accept this new world as it is presented to us.  There might be things that we do not necessarily like, but in our naivet√© we simply take it for what it's worth and figure it will all work out in the end.  The same is true when we join along in the gospel narrative.

But there comes a time - there must come a time - when we leave the acceptance stage and enter into a Why Stage.  This is for our own good, even if it is riddled with doubt and failure.  When a three-year-old challenges her world, it doesn't mean that she is rejecting her reality . . . she is discovering boundaries, and reasons - and fulfilling the sense of wonder that was sparked within by her Creator.  Why would we assume that the process of faith would be any less fascinating?  Or, Why would we ever accept the notion that the process of faith was less fascinating?

This is not simply for new believers, for if we are to become as children (in that childlike way, not a childish one), then the newness of his mercies every morning will always be present for us to experience.  Most of the reason why we are unwilling to entertain our spiritual Why Stages is that the church has too often become afraid of asking questions, exploring and pushing the boundaries of the faith.  Ask people who have raised concerns, who have had doubt, who have pushed against the accepted doctrines of the church.  (And I'm not just talking about Galileo or Open Theists or Theistic Evolutionists - this happens everyday, all around the church.)

Yet, the Why Stage is vital for growing and maturing in the Spirit, wisdom and stature.  What is more, I believe that part of Jesus' words were to get us to understand how the divine spark of the Creator is what makes us explore the world, search for truth, and yearn for freedom.

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