by Martha E. Stortz
A student came into my office, distraught. she had the opportunity to take an internship in Washington, D.C., after graduation—but a family matter bound her to Minneapolis, Where We Were on that late spring after- noon, Watching cottonwood float by on a Warm breeze. She asked a question: “What should I do?” We talked into the late afternoon, outlining possible courses of action, sorting through potential consequences.
Then I posed another question: “What do you want?”
The question caught both of us up short.
I had no answers; I simply asked a different question, one that shifted the focus from what she should do to what she desired. It shifted the focus from head to heart. And instead of deciding, she had to discern. It gave us both a different angle of vision—and we needed that.
Sometimes asking the right question is more important than coming up with an answer to the wrong one. In advice to a young writer, German poet Rainer Maria Rilke identified the importance of asking the right question:
“Don’t search for answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer” (Letters to a Young Poet).
Living the questions invites us to encounter afresh the biblical God, this time as a God who’s always asking questions—and those questions search the heart.
Martha E. Stortz is the Bernhard M. Christensen Professor of Religion and Vocation at Augsburg College, Minneapolis, Minn. She wrote the 2007–08 Bible study for Gather (then Lutheran Woman Today): “Beatitudes: A Compass for Discipleship.”To read the full article, subscribe now. To request a free copy of the magazine, contact us. Remember to tell us which issue you want.