This Christmas my loving family decided that an iPad was just what this reasonably computer- literate grandmother needed, when I would have been quite happy with some beautifully presented toiletries from the local chemist. (Actually a new car would have been very welcome, but that’s just on my cloud list). So, since Christmas I have been encouraging my fingers to negotiate their way through a slightly different kind of IT, one that my brain just doesn’t understand.
Lots of things can’t be explained. I read poetry and if you asked me to explain what I read I’d be lost for words. Poetry touches me at a level beneath words. My response is likely to be a deep sigh and an inner movement, a bit like two magnets clicking together with a mysteriously satisfying Yes. I wonder if Mary’s Yes at the annunciation was something like that. Did her Yes to God dive beneath the practicality of the words into a life-long pondering of their mystery?
But we live in the age of Google, and explanations for things which once could not be explained are now only a click away. Or are they? In his nineties my father continually asked the question, “What if here is all there is. We don’t know, do we?“ No, we don’t, any more than we know why bad things happen to good people.
Mostly we have neither the time nor the inclination to wonder about the curly questions life throws our way. There are salaries to be earned, children to be picked up from school, supermarket shopping to be done and bathrooms to be cleaned. The big, unanswerable questions sneak into our consciousness when sleep eludes us at 3.a.m. or tragedy brushes our life.
Sometimes it’s necessary to slow down and give the big questions the space they need to be heard. Summer holidays can offer more than time to catch up on sleep and read the latest whodunit or romantic novel. In an Australian summer even the most harried adult occasionally feels the need to slow down to an evening walk along the beach or sit quietly on the veranda as the day blends into darkness and before the mosquitos start buzzing. In the quiet questions seem to rise effortlessly into our consciousness. ‘Why are my children so different one to the other? What’s the point of the aging process? Why do I feel so empty? Who is God? ‘ Matters as that invite a response that is beyond our prosaic everydayness..
Religion wraps up the unanswerable, the inexplicable, and calls it faith and hope. Theologian Richard McBrien says that, ’faith in God and humanity is rooted in experiences of wonder, questioning, desire and invitation, that are delicate and not easily framed in simple argument’ – just like me reading poetry or wondering about my dysfunctional family.
God hovers somewhere in the quiet of questions that come from the deep within us, not exactly offering answers we are ready to understand or accept, but definitely inviting a personal response. We call it prayer.