“You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.”
“It’s not that I’m so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer.”
In the course of our lives, we seek answers. We want answers to our questions, to know what is true, and this is good: this knowledge can inform us about ourselves, the people around us and how we should live as God’s creatures in God’s world.
But this information, the answers to some of life’s greatest questions, is not always so easily attained. I believe we can know many things (although how we know anything at all is a different topic of conversation), but I also believe that there are many things we will not know in this life, and this is OK. In other words, it is OK to be left with unanswered questions. One of the greatest things I have learned during my time at Eastern is that we can’t possibly answer all of our questions. It seems to me that there is more to know than we can possibly know here and now, and this is OK.
Herein lies the danger of believing (falsely) that you have completely and accurately answered all of your questions: your acceptance of these answers might allow you to stop thinking so much about them. And herein lies the gift of allowing some of your questions to remain unanswered: you may continue to ponder them, to wrestle with them, to sit with them. That we will have unanswered questions is inevitable; that we may continue to engage with these questions in the pursuit of truth, that we can remain in a place of questioning, is a blessing.
As I reflect on my time at Eastern, I see how I have come to embrace the gift of questioning. I got here from moments of frustration, moments of overwhelmingness, moments of doubt, as well as moments of understanding, moments of appreciation and moments of peace. I got here because of fellow students, professors and other members of the Eastern community who have encouraged me to ask unafraid, to work with my questions and attempt a few answers without fear of what I might discover.
In the last four years, the questions I have asked have ranged from how we can transcend time by stepping on the beach, to why people are so terrible and yet so wonderful, to how people can love those in the LGBT+ community if they cannot affirm their whole identity, to how we can be convicted to do one thing and decide to do another, to why God let my cousin die in his bedroom. These are not easy questions, and it follows that their answers may not be easy to hear or easy to reach.
In the words of Anne Frank, “The word ‘why’ not only taught me to ask, but also to think. And thinking has never hurt anyone. On the contrary, it does us all a world of good.” The implications here are greater than what I can explain in words. But these are just a few of the things we get to do when we think about our questions: We get to consider various options, some more obvious than others. We get to look at different perspectives—vastly different perspectives. We might get to analyze, to problem solve, to attempt to figure out what makes sense and to consider things that matter.
Sometimes, we get answers.