Live the Questions | Forum for Theological Exploration

Live the Questions

By: Chris McCain
March 13, 2014

“...have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” – Rainer Maria Rilke, “Letters to a Young Poet” (1903)

Over a century ago, the Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke exchanged letters with Franz Kappus, a 19-year old officer cadet in the Austrian army. Rilke, responding to Kappus’s questions about life and vocation, declined to offer any direct answers. In the spirit of a mystic, Rilke encouraged Kappus to examine the yearnings of his innermost self and to attend to what was arising within him. Rushing to find answers, cautioned Rilke, might close oneself off to creativity, imagination, and awe. According to Rilke, life’s most profound questions operate on their own time and have lives of their own.

Rushing to find answers ... might close oneself off to creativity, imagination, and awe.

Since joining FTE’s team in November 2013, I have been wrestling with many questions – some existential, others very practical. In my work, I seek to identify and support young adults who may aspire to leadership in Christian communities. During my travels over the last few months, I have had opportunities to meet with young adults, as well as leaders of organizations that serve and mentor them. In those conversations, I often hear echoes of similar questions, including:

  • As the traditional models and institutions of Christian ministry evolve, what do young leaders need to thrive?
  • How are faith communities emerging as people become more globally and virtually connected?
  • In a society that can feel increasingly fragmented and polarized, how do leaders build (or rebuild) communities?

Though I may seek to offer provisional answers to such questions, I realize that their answers are still emerging. While that creates uncertainty, I have hope because I know that God is still at work, and that FTE is seeking to respond by going wherever that work may take us. So, like young Kappus, may we heed Rilke’s advice: live the questions now. And perhaps someday, with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we will live our way into the answers.

Tags...: Thinking Out Loud, Shaping the Future


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