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March 26, 2013

in answer to your question

Little known fact: in my first year of post-secondary, my classmates voted me the "person who asks the most questions." Yes, that's me. I ask questions because I want to understand thoroughly. I like neatly presented information: outlines, parallel sentences, numbered lists, and books with logical structures. The usual state of affairs on my desk might not lead you to this conclusion, but a personality profile test accurately stated that I "desire a high level of structure and order." I also like clear answers to my questions, so I ask and ask until things become clear.

Enter Asia, where I've been living for almost four months now. Neither of my current physical environments (Asia, or my employer, a family-run start-up) have a high level of structure and order. Clear communication is often strained by cultural differences, language barriers, generational gaps, and the like.

This has taken its toll on me. Lately I have felt exhausted and overwhelmed, and I realized that being in a constantly new and changing environment (coupled with wearing this fallible flesh) has resulted in culture stress. In addition to that, Asia has blown out the walls of my mental house and has me asking questions that I've never asked before. So. many. questions. If I asked a lot of questions in college, I'm asking even more now.

If you've been following my journey in Asia, you've seen me grapple questions such as:
But there are more questions, many more. 

There are simple daily questions. Where do I get a curtain rod and is that a good price for sheets? Why is that person ringing my doorbell? Is it safe for me to be walking down this street by myself? Is that driver overcharging me? And my personal favourite, is everyone in this food court staring at me, or is there, perchance, one person who isn't? As much as I enjoy many of the cultural experiences, the very fact of having to learn so many things all over again (starting with the alphabet!) is humbling, and draining.

My soul is also asking questions with larger implications. For example, how did J'sus relate to rich people, and what can I glean from His methods? How do I know when I am paying someone a fair wage, and how is fair defined? How do I interact with the servant who works in my house? What is a truly Biblical, unbiased view of wealth, the value of labour and employer-employee relationships? To what degree can I participate in festivals and activities, as everything seems to have an underlying religious meaning? How do I manage my time well, while still being flexible with the twists and turns that cross-cultural living and relationships always throw my way? It seems like I am constantly coming across situations for which I don't have a workable frame of reference. 

In recent years I have become accustomed to asking Google most anything, but these are questions Google can't answer for me. I want to frame the questions properly, to find answers in His revelation, to think B!blically. But until I have time to do so, my questions rattle around in my head and sometimes, steal my sleep. Late one night, I asked myself: did I make a mistake in coming here?

Design by Christopher Goodwin (
I've been spending quality time in police stations lately, to acquire visa documents. My coworker and I ride through heat and dust, enter the station, get told to return, and then return again, then return again…. The corners of the building reek of urine and the men stare me down, and (only for documentation purposes) ask if I'm married and where I live. Sweat dribbles down my back and my work to-do list piles up while we do what feels like unnecessary running around. Another question rises in my mind: why am I here again?

In the generous manner that I see often here, a friend gave up her evening to serve as my translator at the police station. We ducked past swarms of bored policemen and stood in the station's open-air hallway, chatting as we waited for our audience with the police official.

I know many so-called spiritual people who would have spent the moments in the hall shooting the breeze. Maybe I would have as well, had my friend not set a serious tone to the conversation. "I have questions," she told me, "about what life is about. Why things are, why things happen." I clarified, "You mean, you wonder about the purpose of life?" She responded in the affirmative and continued, "Like my friend injured by a serious car accident…why her? What for? Why is life unfair to good people? She was always the happiest, kindest person...." Her voice trailed. Uncertainty hung in the air. Darkness tucked itself around the corners of the station as she expressed her concerns. She's seeking answers; it's obvious.

I have so much to explore, to learn, to ponder, and to discuss. I'm asking, asking, asking...but my questions are less urgent than hers. My body, mind and emotions may be wrung by change, but ultimately I am resting in the One whose "understanding has no limit". My friend is not. She's asking, seeking, knocking.

A few years ago I had to determine my stance on the question "what of the unreached?" or "what happens to people who have no exposure to the Light?" It was a query that needed to be settled from the Word, in my heart and mind. After much study, I had to conclude that in order to be fair in judging unbelief, the Father must provide enough opportunity for each seeking heart to believe, whether it looks that way to us or not. By that I mean that there is no one who is truly unreached by any Light (cf. Psalm 19 and Romans 1). I also concluded that those who respond to the little Light they have are given more: "you will seek Me and find Me when you seek me with all your heart."

The questions that have occasionally taunted me come to mind: Did I make a mistake in coming here? Why am I here again? I must revert to truth to answer those questions; according to my theology, the Father finds a way to throw Light on the path of the seeker. I came here to push pixels, to expand my friends' business, and to learn about another culture. But it is also probable that I am here in answer to a question someone asked, to a petition someone made to One who promises that "everyone who asks receives...." And for now, that's all I need to know. No more questions asked.

1 comment:

  1. Although I have lived in Uganda now for over 3 years, I feel as I have more questions than when I first came. I may have come with what I thought were "answers" to the needs here, but many of my solutions have not fit the cultural context and I find myself instead frustrated. This is good, though, as it pushes me to seek the Father's heart and wisdom - because He created and is very familiar with each culture and He knows how best to reach the people in them. Praise Him for I can rest in this knowledge. May God continue to guide you as you seek answers from Him!