Nurturing Faith and Curiosity
"I beg you … to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer."
—Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
On my 17-year-old's nightstand are the books she's reading (concurrently): the Bible, Mere Christianity, and the Qur'an.
She's made a daily practice of reading the Bible for years, often journaling her prayers in a notebook, or sometimes in dry-erase marker on her windows or mirror. For example, written on her window right now is this: "The riches of your love will always be enough" Below it is a list of things she's grateful for, from friends and family to "clean water to drink" and her bed.
She's a young woman of great faith and faithful action. She leads a small group of three-year-olds at our church and goes with a group of kids from church to serve the poor every week. Last spring, she went on a mission trip to Africa (hence the gratitude for clean water).
She's also strongly opinionated, unafraid to speak her mind. She often tests the boundaries and has since she was a toddler. I believe her first word was "Why?" and she hasn't stopped asking it.
She's never been one to blindly believe. At age three, she suffered great angst because she told me she wanted to believe in Jesus but couldn't see or feel him. I told her that when she felt my love and my hugs, that was how Jesus showed his love to her. But I did not shame her or tell her what to believe. After wrestling with those doubts for a while, and hearing every week at church and at home that Jesus adored her, she invited him into her heart at about age four.
She lives this truth: Faith and doubt coexist in every human heart. God is big enough to handle the questions, and faith is strengthened by our curiosity and inquiry. When she'd come to me with questions over the last nearly two decades, I'd often start with "Well, what do you think?" We have talked, without labeling them as such, about theology, hermeneutics, interpretation, doctrine.
When I asked how the Qur'an reading was going, she said she'd noticed how similar Yahweh and Allah were. "Are they the same person?" she wondered, then quickly asked, "Is that blasphemy to say that?"