An email came across my desk recently about a kindergarten class. A teacher had asked her students to paint. She was walking around when she arrived at a girl’s desk to see what she was doing.
“I’m drawing God,” she said.
This stopped the teacher in her tracks. “But no one knows what God looks like,” the teacher pointed out.
Without skipping a beat, the little girl said: “They will in a minute.”
From our youngest age and throughout our lives we find questions coming up within us. What is God? Is there meaning to existence? Where is my life leading? What happens after I die?
These questions are unsettling. They raise doubts about what we know. They start us on a search.
One day, I looked back at the path I had taken and realized that I was going the wrong way. My desire for answers was missing something much more important.
I watched what happened to me after I found answers: First I would stop searching, since I now knew. I had arrived at my goal. Next, I would think of how many would like to know this valuable answer, so I tried to find ways to tell others. Then somewhere along the way my answer would not quite fit, so I would start defending it.
It was as if I planted a flag in the ground and began building a fortress around my answer. I then created an army to fight to defend it. My troops would get bigger the longer I hung on to it, and my answer would get more and more elaborate.
I think we are like the little girl: We want to paint God so that the whole world can see. We think this is where the power is, because we think the answers give us strength.
What I came to realize, however, was that having the answers weakened me. It was when my hunger to know and to ask was at its greatest ¬¬- that is when I grew the most. The real power was in the questions, not the answers.
The questions changed me. They shook me free from what I thought I knew, and as I looked at it, I realized that these silent questions were the real power that moved me into the heart of truth.
We think we are searching for answers, but the moment we find them, we get stuck, until once again our need to know sets us out once more to find out how much more there must be. We then see that our quest has just begun.
Over and over again, I had to throw away everything I thought I knew before I could see something much greater. Finally, after seeing this pattern again and again, I realized: It was spiritual freedom that I was looking for. Achieving that meant emptying myself of my beliefs and making my own spiritual growth more important than having answers.
I have heard people claim that human beings create religion because they need to believe. It has become a popular theory these days. I think, perhaps, they need to believe it… But when I look to the heart of our need for spirituality, I believe that it comes from the fact that our spirit needs to reach out and touch the stars, and to touch all of life. We need to know the full meaning of who we are.
We love, because this moves us beyond our little selves into something larger. It brings us into dialogue with life and with Soul. Once we’ve found that kind of love, we never want it to end. We are not looking for answers, we are trying to live the questions.
Trusting in our ability to recognize that inner flame of life is what turns us away from searching for outer authority. It unexpectedly leads us to something much more valuable: Inner authority. It is a power that doesn’t come from answers. In fact, real inner wisdom brings us to a sense of wonder and openness. It is a different kind of strength that comes when our inner being is in communication with all of life. It is a dialogue that engages the depths of our own self and connects us a wholeness that we could never put into words.