Char Rachuy Cox: Loving and Living the Questions
My youngest daughter graduates from college next week. It is surprising to no one that I am immensely proud of her. She embraced her small, private, liberal arts college experience with her whole self - immersing herself in experiences that stretched her, challenged her, formed her, shaped her, and changed her. I am grateful. I am proud. I am hopeful for what her life will continue to be and become. But I also find myself somewhat pensive these days.
Contemplative at this particular milestone.
As I look forward to my youngest-child-now-adult walking across the stage, I find myself ruminating on the threads of my own decades-ago-college-experience that continue to be woven throughout my life.
Reason in one hand and faith in the other.
An expansive worldview.
Standing in a different corner of the room to see things from a different perspective.
Bridging the aisle of difference through relationships – real, genuine, deep –
with those whose take on life is markedly different from my own.
A sense of rootedness,
balanced with an ongoing reaching beyond the comfortable or familiar.
And, with a nod to Rilke,
both loving and living the questions themselves.
I am pretty certain that my love of questions was kindled by the late Dr. Fritz Rusch, my Greek professor at Augustana (then College) now University. As much as I learned the nuances, complexities, and beauty of the Greek language from Fritz, I learned even more about ways to be in this world as one who cherishes both thinking and believing. One day when I was cataloging books in his office as his T.A., he said this to me. “Char, the lifelong spiritual quest for wisdom is marked not so much by the knowledge that we acquire as it is by the questions that we ask.” I asked him to repeat it so that I could write it down. For years, I carried those words, written on a scrap of paper in my wallet. Now, I carry them in my heart.
A lifelong spiritual quest marked by questions -
Questions that invite,
Maybe even transform -
And so much more.
I truly seek to both love and live such questions.
Three questions in particular have marked my personal life and my life of pastoral ministry. They are questions for which there is never a singular, complete, or finite answer. Always personal but never private, these questions are alive, changing, transforming and transformative. I ask these questions repeatedly of myself, regularly, sometimes daily, sometimes hourly. I have asked them of the communities amid which I have been privileged to live and work. I have asked them – and given them – as gifts to individuals who are wrestling with a sense of both daily and big picture purpose, meaning, and direction.
They are, for me, the primary questions of vocation, vocation in its fullest sense – not simply a job, but one’s whole life lived, flowing from baptismal covenant for the sake of God’s resurrecting purposes in this world.
...Who are you called to be?
...What are you called to do?
...Why are you here?
Now at first, these questions can seem too existential, too big, perhaps too amorphous or intangible to even begin to answer. How am I supposed to know where or how I fit in the universe and what that means for me or others or my place in it all? We may feel like these questions leave us grasping at straws or gasping for air. But when these questions are directed at the immediate, rather than some distant, yet-to-be-realized-future, they can be life-giving, even liberating.
As present-tense questions, they invite a present-tense response that is not expected to be permanent -
a present-tense response that anticipates a different reply every time they are encountered,
a present-tense response that is open to the needs and the imaginations of the now.
When embraced as present-tense questions,
they invite an ongoing evolution that creates a cumulative, lifelong living into the answers.
Who are you called to be – now, in the specificity of this particular moment?
What are you called to do – now, at this precise and given time?
Why are you here – now, in this unique and exact place?
With such a present-tense focus, one’s whole life becomes a living into the call of God, a call that for most of us is not heard through a burning bush or angel at the doorstep. Rather, the call of God comes through such everyday things as dirty diapers that need to be changed, soil that needs to be readied for spring seeds to be planted, or an elderly neighbor who needs help navigating her new cell phone. It manifests itself in generosity of spirit for the person ahead of me in the checkout lane at the grocery store, a holding of my own thoughts and ideas to make space for centering thoughts and ideas of others that are often silenced, and an openness to my own need for openness to both see and do things differently.
Through an intentional, moment-by-moment, hour-by-hour, day-by-by loving and living these questions, daily life becomes an ongoing practice of resurrection – for you and for those you encounter - a practice in bringing hope out of despair, joy out of sorrow, life out of death. Oh, it’s not easy. Practicing resurrection means dying and rising yourself – over and over and over again. But goodness, how marvelous resurrection is!
So, I invite you to try these questions on as a regular spiritual practice for a time or a season. See where they take you. See how they change you. See what becomes of your yet-to-be-lived-into responses. You just might be surprised at the new life that springs forth both in you and through you.
Who are you called to be?
What are you called to do?
Why are you here?
Rev. Char Rachuy Cox
Char holds a Doctor of Ministry Degree from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, with an emphasis in Spirituality; a Master of Sacred Theology Degree from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, with an emphasis in Preaching and Worship, a Master of Divinity Degree from Luther Seminary, and a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Augustana University, Sioux Falls. She has served as a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for over 28 years, serving in seminary, collegiate, and congregational settings. She loves reading – especially memoirs and historical fiction, and enjoys writing poetry, traveling, and all things winter.
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