Learning to Love the Questions

It took me over a decade to discern that I wanted to be a priest. I was introduced to the Episcopal Church halfway through my studies in seminary, and I knew right away that I had found a spiritual home after a long sojourn of not being rooted in a religious tradition. As I regularly attended services, my roots sank deeply into the rich soil of sacred rituals, sacraments, and liturgies, all infused with divine mystery. I found a place where I could hold ambiguities with wonder, and rest in Great Unknowing.

So, when I felt God’s Spirit stirring in me, inviting me into the vocational call of a priest, I decided to hold that question with wonder and not knowing. I decided to let the question first form in me.

Most of the important questions in our lives take time to resolve, and many will even take a lifetime. These are the questions that touch on things like our identity (who am I and who am I becoming?), our human agency (what do I want and what will I choose?), our purpose (why am I here and what then should I do?), our faith (what do I believe and what don’t I believe?), and meaning-making (why did this happen and what is it teaching me?).

Even though this is true for everyone, at times, the not knowing can be a source of tension or inner conflict or even shame. We are often pressed to have all the answers! But the truth is, the important questions serve a purpose in and of themselves. They are not a problem to be solved or hurried through, but an invitation to growth to sit with and savor.

The German poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) says in his book Letters to a Young Poet:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

To “live with the questions now” requires patience. Reverence. Curiosity. Wonder. Acceptance. Long-suffering. Gentleness. Compassion. Surrender. Humility. Staying awake.

Living with the question of my vocational call nurtured many fruits of God’s Spirit in me, preparing me to receive—or to not receive—the answer. The point was never simply to reach a final conclusion, but to allow Christ to form in me through the process. When approached this way, the question could lead me through a personal transformation and into a deeper spiritual understanding. The fruits of my journey are now some of the richest offerings in my ministry.

Here is a meditation to help you practice living with “the questions now,” so you can allow your question to form in you and engage in the Spirit’s deep inner work in your life.

  1. Sit comfortably in your chair with your eyes closed, and hands resting open and upwards on your knees. Relax your body and take a few long, slow breaths.
  2. Let a question you are asking present itself. No question is off-limits, and all are welcome.
  3. Without fixing, resolving, analyzing, or intellectualizing, just notice how you feel towards your question. Positive? Ambivalent? Angry? Threatened? How does this feel in your body?
  4. Whatever feelings have come up, choose to greet your question with reverence. It is a welcome guest and may have something to teach you.
  5. Accept your question. You may realize you have been fighting against your question, denying its existence, repressing it inside of yourself, diminishing its significance, or even rejecting it altogether. Simply accept the reality of its presence.
  6. Let your question be seen and identified. Give yourself permission to ask this question, reassuring yourself that it is ok and safe to ask…whatever it may be!
  7. Practice having compassion towards your question. Suspend any judgement or assumptions you have towards your question. Relieve any pressure you have been putting on it. Try talking to it kindly and gently, expressing gratitude for the role it is playing in your life.
  8. Be curious about your question. What invitation might your question be extending? Does it have anything to say to you? What is God’s prayer for you through this question? How might it be a catalyst for your growth?
  9. Sit in silence with your question. Take as long as you would like to sit silently with an awareness of your question’s presence. You don’t need to do or say anything. Just hold it openhandedly. Practice living with—or simply being with—your question.
  10. Finally, let go of your question. Release your question into God’s loving embrace. It is not yours to carry on your own. You do not need to hold your question tightly, worry about it, or try to control the outcome. Let go, surrender, and trust in God’s infinite wisdom and support.
  11. Going forward, let your question live inside of you as you practice being spiritually awake in each moment. “Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

After holding the question of my vocational call for much longer than I thought I would be asking it, I am now a transitional deacon approaching ordination to the priesthood. My role is a way for me to share my lifelong spiritual journey with those who are walking alongside me. I get to draw on—and embody—all the wisdom and experience I gleaned in my years of waiting, and all that has yet to be revealed to me.

And I continue to ask the questions. Often, I even love them—for inviting me into a more expansive way of being, for leading me to more fully experience my human existence, for coaxing me to always glean more. After all, isn’t the point to “live everything”?

May 05, 2023 by Christina Miller
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Our mission is to nurture contemplative living and leadership.


In 2025, Shalem will be a dynamic and inclusive community, empowered by the Spirit, where seekers engage in transformation of themselves, their communities, and the world through spiritual growth, deep connection, and courageous action.