“Curiosity killed the cat,” goes the age-old saying. I remember this attitude being a foundational part of faith in some of the circles where I participated in late high school and early college. “Don’t ask questions! Don’t be curious! The Bible says it. That’s the end of it.” As a brand new Christian, my curiosity and wonder at the mystery of God were endless. But I regularly felt squelched- like my questions had boundaries, my interest was to be limited, and I was to simply “trust” someone else's answers to my wonder.
Then, in early college, I reread the story of Jacob wrestling God with new eyes. Jacob is not satisfied with the answers of the world or with the boxes of faith that he’s been invited into. As he flees what he knew and who he was before, he encounters a stranger in the desert and wrestles with him. The Message translation of Genesis 32:28-30 ends this encounter like this,
The man said, “But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it’s Israel (God-Wrestler); you’ve wrestled with God and you’ve come through.”
Jacob asked, “And what’s your name?”
The man said, “Why do you want to know my name?” And then, right then and there, he blessed him.
Jacob named the place Peniel (God’s Face) because, he said, “I saw God face-to-face and lived to tell the story!”
In the early morning hours, Jacob wakes and wrestles God. This encounter reveals in part something that will be revealed in full in Jesus: God is an intimate God. God desires to be with us at our best and our worst. God is not concerned with our questions or our wonder at God’s mystery- in fact, God invites it. God wants us to wrestle, and to look at God’s face.
In United Methodism, we believe in using a tool called the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. This says that we can begin with Scripture, but use reason (our brains), tradition (the faith of our forebears), and experience (our encounters with God and the way we’re shaped) to know and understand God. We are encouraged to question, wrestle, and settle into God’s mystery. I am grateful to this legacy and that in Methodism, I found a place where my wonder and questions wouldn’t always be squelched.
This Sunday in worship, your pastors will model that wrestling as we look at the questions that have been submitted for “Ask the Pastor Sunday.” (We are also working on a way to answer some of the questions that we will inevitably have to leave unanswered.) Some of these questions do not have full answers or even black and white ones. In this mystery, we rest in the grace that God gives us.
Then, Sunday afternoon, at our Mental Health Fair, we’ll be given another space to wrestle and wonder about a crisis in our country. Experts will be present to answer your questions, explain resources, and help us, as a faith community, navigate our role in supporting our neighbors.
I’m so excited to be there and to learn from our pastors in the morning and health care providers in the afternoon. I hope you’ll join us as we follow in the tradition of Jacob and wrestle with our faith and encounter our intimate, loving God.