Friday, April 12, 2013

Leaving a Question Blank

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you . . .” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

“I’m a good student but a lousy tester.” Ever heard that? I’ve not only heard it, I’m pretty sure that somewhere along the way I’ve said it.

I never liked standardized tests. My dislike, however, never exempted me from taking them. Since these tests were never my best opportunity to display my potential as a student, I did what I could to pick up helpful strategies for surviving the experience. One such strategy had to do with running out of time on a test section – a recurring issue for me. The strategy was simple. Work as long as you can and when you know you’ve only got a few minutes left, quickly fill in a bubble for every question.

To be clear: I do not recommend this to any student. The assumption was that it is important to attempt an answer with every question. Better to guess blindly than leave a question blank.

Mercifully, the days of sharpening my #2 pencil and filling in the bubble sheet are long behind me. But the formal education I pursued and the vocation to which God has led me puts me in a place where people have plenty of questions, and sometimes they verbalize those questions to me. I find myself wanting to give answers. However, when it comes to people’s souls and the life of faith, guessing blindly and answering in a hurry won’t do. Over the years I’ve gotten more comfortable with admitting that I don’t have all the answers.

As we think about exploring and embracing our doubts we would do well to be clear about exactly what we’re after. We are not after answers or explanations. We do not work through doubts in order to come to certainty. To be sure, there are answers to be offered and at times we may find ourselves firmly anchored in conviction rather than confusion. But our interest in doubt is not an effort to answer every question. Sometimes, with some questions, we leave a blank.

In exploring our doubts what we are truly seeking is grace.

This was the answer Paul received after his three-fold pleading with God to remove the thorn in the flesh. There was no simple yes or no. Rather, there was a promise. “My grace is sufficient for you.” Paul seems to have begun by searching for an answer. What he found on the other side of his struggle was grace. He found an invitation to trust God with his struggle. And God wants to be trusted more than understood or explained.

The grace that was sufficient for Paul is sufficient for you as well. There may be things you don’t understand. You may be pleading with God about a torment that will not cease or a perplexity that will not be resolved. Someday you may arrive at an answer. At time may come when you understand what now seems incomprehensible. But until then, there is God’s grace. This grace is sufficient for you.

Our time is up. So put down your pencil and don’t worry about the blanks.

We give you thanks, O God, for the sufficiency of your grace and for the way it sustains and guides us in what we cannot understand. Grant the grace we need for this day as we rely on your strength in our weakness. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

No comments: