I spend a lot of time wondering. I wonder about everything. I think I have always been a wonderer. It was accepted if not encouraged when I was younger, and tolerated if not accepted as I grew into my teens. It was one of the main reasons that psychology intrigued me. When I was in college, I started to recognize that not everyone was a wonderer. While I wondered how people could not wonder why … everything… they were confused why I would care. I started to be confronted with people that wanted to “help” me with my wondering. They saw the wondering as confusion and lucky for me – they had all the answers to take away that confusion. They ended up being the ones confused when I questioned every answer they gave me. I didn’t want to make people uncomfortable, so I started keeping my wondering to myself. It obviously wasn’t as interesting to other people as it was to me. But every once in a while, my thoughts would sneak out through my mouth…
I remember attempting my first women’s Bible study as a twenty-something new youth pastor’s wife. I made the mistake of blurting out that sometimes I wish we didn’t even have the Bible and God had to just speak to us like he did to Moses and Abraham. I might as well have stomped on the Bible while burning an American flag. The stares were of horror, disbelief and confusion all at the same time. It reminded me of middle school. Not only because of feeling twelve and uncomfortable and unacceptable and all of that… but it reminded me of being in a Sunday school class discussion on cults. The teacher stated that any religion that denies Jesus is the Son of God is a cult. I asked if that would include the Jews. After all, they don’t believe that Jesus is the Son of God, right? There was that look again, coupled with the response of “Well, NO! Not the Jews! Jesus was a Jew!” which really didn’t answer my question except to let me know that wondering is just not acceptable where God is concerned.
I was watching the remake of the Stepford Wives one day and the scene where Nicole Kidman walks into a women’s book club with some book like War and Peace and every other woman has some Martha Stewart book about entertaining. I said to Mark “THIS! This is what I feel like in a women’s Bible study!” It’s not that I think I’m smarter. Not in any way. I just seem to find more enjoyment in wondering while every other woman seems to prefer reciting from a memorized script. The Bible study script would usually go something like this:
“I’m so thankful to God that he allowed my husband to find a job that allows me to stay home with my children.” Followed by nods and smiles and amens and maybe a phrase like “Yes, God is so good.”
“Oh, please keep my Aunt Janet in prayer. She is having surgery Thursday.” Followed by “Oh, yes. Let’s pray for healing for Janet, peace for the family, and wisdom for the doctors.” Lots of nods.
“My daughter is having trouble with some friends at school. She needs prayer to really be confident in who she is as a daughter of the King. Also, we need to pray for the other girls that they will see the light of Jesus in my daughter and will be brought to salvation.”
Followed by: “Oh, yes, yes. In fact, let’s be sure we pray this for all of our children.”
Then there was the day that one woman read the verse about his mercies being new every morning and how it was so true because no matter how bad the day has been, when you wake up the next morning, everything is fresh and new. Again, my thoughts escaped out through my mouth and I said:
“Well, that’s funny, because when I was struggling with depression, I would be better as the day went on, and okay when I went to bed, but waking up in the morning was literally painful. That’s how I knew the anti-depressants were starting to work. I woke up and my first thought was ‘Wow! The sky is so beautiful and blue today!’” I didn’t really notice the weird looks. But later one woman thanked me for being so “brave” to mention my depression and use of medication.
Then one year I worked as a teacher’s aid in an elementary school. (Still hands down the favorite year of my life). The new superintendent was encouraging the teachers to create “thinking cultures”. They were supposed to spend time encouraging the students to “wonder”. It was so interesting to see the school split right down the middle with half the teachers embracing it with excitement and the other half thinking it was the dumbest waste of time they had ever heard of. I loved it. I had a little group of first graders that I worked with every day. We would talk about books and “wonder” what would happen next, or what would happen if we changed one thing, or what would happen if this story was real.
I started to incorporate these ideas into my middle school Sunday school teaching. I encouraged my kids to bring questions every week on the chapter we were going over. They had to be real questions, not textual questions like “where did Jesus go?” We would get into discussions in those classes that I never could have had with adults in the church. Questions like: “If Jesus is God and couldn’t sin, why would Satan waste his time trying to tempt him?” or “If Jesus is on the right hand of God, why would John and James ask to be seated on either side of him in the Kingdom? Wouldn’t his left side be taken by God?” or “Jesus says if we ask for anything, God will give it to us. What does that really mean?”
The scary part of wondering for a lot of people, is that it often leads to more questions and less answers. The more you dig, the more you find, but the more you find, the more questions you have. I have found that inside and outside the church, most people want life to fit in a box. It’s so much easier to handle the crazy instability that is our life if we accept certain parts and ignore others with pat answers – even if they don’t make any sense. The less we think about it, the more comfortable we can be. It’s as if we all live in virtual reality. We accept and ignore all the little “glitches” and just carry on following the script. The closer life sticks to the script, the better we feel. When something “off-script” happens, we get upset and wonder what life is all about for a short time, but then everything returns to script-normal and we forget all about our wondering. Wonderers, on the other hand, can’t ever accept the script as reality. Life doesn’t feel scripted to us. We see the glitches – like the poverty and hatred and selfishness and greed – and we know life shouldn’t be this way. We know it doesn’t make sense. The simple answers we are given make even less sense. So we wonder. We wonder why we are here. We wonder why life seems so hard for us – a constant struggle – when other people seem to just cruise along. We wonder why when we talk about death being a promised welcome relief some day, we get lectures on being too “dark” and “morbid”. We wonder why anyone would think this life makes sense. And most of all, we wonder if there are other wonderers out there because wondering together sounds like the most glorious activity ever.