During our trip to Israel and Palestine, we met with lifelong peacemaker and former Archbishop Elias Chacour. After he shared his story of commitment to nonviolence, forgiveness, and reconciliation, one in our group asked him:
"How do you reconcile Jesus’ saying that ‘My yoke is easy and my burden is light’ (Matthew 11:30) with the tough work of reconciliation, forgiveness, and sacrificing that you live out?"
Chacour’s reply: “None of your business.” He went on to explain that how he does so is deeply personal and hard to articulate; that maybe one shouldn’t try to; and that it gives a spiritual grounding beyond what can be expressed. Its about personal relationship with God, and calling.
As we traveled to our next destination, the person who asked the question observed that Chacour’s answer reminded him of Mother Teresa, and what she said when asked how she was able to work so tirelessly for the poor. Her reply: “I don’t even understand the question. I simply love my husband.”
The questions we ask are important. They say a lot about what we want. The answers, non answers, and redirects are just as important. They can lead us to what we really need. That might be something so far from our field of vision that a surprise response is needed to turn our gaze in the right direction. An indirect reply can be a gift.
Later in our trip, a pastor in Bethlehem told us about a colleague who returned to Palestine after attending seminary in the United States. He came home full of esoteric theological knowledge that was irrelevant to people living in conflict. He said: “I came back with all the answers to questions no one was asking.” I thought of a quote at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum attributed to a surviving rabbi: “The question is not Where was God?, but Where was humanity?”
Understanding what most needs our focus can be hard. Questions are important. But often they are a beginning, not an end. Answers, or curve ball replies, may lead us where we don’t expect to go. We need to follow, let our questions mature, and trust that they can lead us to deeper understanding. That can help us know self, others, and needs of the world better.
What’s your question? Are you ready to follow?