“If God is everywhere, where is Hell?”
We were at a local restaurant, quickly eating lunch after church. Our daughter had a soccer game close by and we needed to eat and run. But this was what was on her mind. Of course, you know, hell and God and stuff. It’s not our usual meal conversation, our eternal destiny. Somehow, in the midst of so much noise, I actually heard her. I stopped and let it sink in.
If God is everywhere, where is Hell? Her question seeped deeply into my being. My first response was honest, “What a good question,” I said. “I now wonder that myself.”
Her question has stayed with me throughout each day, each hour, this week. Not just the question itself, but the wondering, the openness, the unknowing. Young minds have new ways of looking at things. I am jealous of the fearless way she approaches faith. What a gift it is. Her ability to be real and to ask without fear of sounding “lost.”
I’m not sure she realizes it, but she’s asking the same questions I am. She’s asking them a bit more freely, but we are both there. It has taken me many years to get back to the questions, but I’m here. Is this the circle of life?
Recently, a mentor called it a free fall.
It’s also been called the “dark night of the soul.”
It is full of mystery and freedom- all in one.
Last month I was going through the books at the Jesuit Center bookstore. My eye caught one and I brought it home. It’s the story of popular author Sue Monk Kidd and her spiritual crisis. In When the Heart Waits, she says,
What has happened to our ability to dwell in unknowing, to live inside a question and coexist with the tensions of uncertainty? Where is our willingness to incubate pain and let it birth something new? What has happened to patient unfolding, to endurance? These things are what form the ground of waiting. And if you look carefully, you’ll see that they are also the seedbed of creativity and growth-what allows us to do the daring and break through to the newness.
Leaving questions unanswered is not easy. It’s not what I saw coming. I thought I’d have most things figured out by this age so that I could teach my children truth. So, it isn’t what I wanted, but she must know. Her parents face the same questions she does. We just aren’t sure. We have doubts. There are answers we long for. Things we wrestle with. We throw our hands up in the air. Wonder why. Wonder if. Rethink it. Question it all.
It’s hard to write about this stuff because I worry about what Christian people will think.
a.They don’t know?
b. They aren’t sure?
c. They have questions?
d.Haven’t they been in church all of their lives?
And the answer to that is E. ALL of the above.
But this isn’t new, it’s just an opening up of sorts. We need to be real and we need to be free. If we aren’t, we just aren’t living.
Last month we had a date night at a local Mediterranean restaurant. We sat and talked about things we don’t talk about in our day to day life. Drew shared about a friend who had asked him recently to describe his faith. He said, “I told him, I’m a churchgoing agnostic.” A perfect way to put it, I thought. And though the word agnostic put a little fear in my heart, I pushed that fear away and accepted truth. It’s ok, I told myself. Drew is being honest. AND, who says I’m not just the same?
I am confident that this isn’t the end of the road. I am confident there is so much more life and living ahead. But before we learn new things, we must unlearn some old things. In faith we search for truth. In faith we open our ears to the words of friends. In faith we step through the doors of church each Sunday. In faith we admit to our children we don’t know. In faith, we wait. We live in the questions. We wait (not so) patiently for the breakthrough to newness.