The Five Ws and One H of Faith
Who, what, when, where, why, and how were the six foundational words of Amy Sorrell's writing career. Could those questions also be foundational words of her faith? She writes about these six words for our series The Power of Good Questions.
Who, what, when, where, why, and how.
Six foundational words of my writing career.
Some of my fondest memories involve interviewing locals and other colorful folks around my small-town college campus for feature articles for the student newspaper, where I spent hours writing and editing. My journalism professor taught me to write clean and simple, to never use the Oxford comma, and to shape my stories into the highly revered inverted pyramid format (all of this to my current fiction editors’ chagrin). Write a decent hook, and answer those six questions, and readers have all the reasons they need to keep on reading.
Could those questions also be foundational words of my faith?
Questions without Answers
Growing up in the church, I learned a lot about God through questions. Sunday school teachers asked questions. Bible study curricula asked questions. Pastors and youth leaders and summer camp counselors all asked questions. But those sorts of questions typically had answers. It wasn’t until I found myself wandering in circles in my own wilderness that I began to ask questions unexplainable by a simple search through my concordance. These were the sorts of questions that frightened me because I wasn’t asking them out of a desire to learn as much as I was asking them out of a desperate need to find hope.
Some of these questions came when I was diagnosed with perinatal mood disorders with the births of my three sons: Why, Lord?
Others came when I began having flashbacks of years of abuse: Where were you, Lord?
Eventually we all arrive at places in our lives where the Scripture study and memorization don’t matter, and we find ourselves asking the same six questions integral not just to good journalism but to life itself.
The Book of Questions
It may be comforting to know that, using the King James version as a reference, who, what, when, where, why, and how appear collectively over seven thousand times in the Bible. Moreover, out of 31,102 verses in the Bible, 3,294 include questions.
Abraham asked questions.
Moses asked questions.
Job, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Mary, Joseph, Peter, and Paul asked questions.
And Jesus asked some of the best ones of all.
“But who do you say that I am?” Jesus asked (Matt. 16:15).
“Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” (Matt. 12:48).
“Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your lifespan?” (Matt. 6:27).
And to the disciples who balked when the woman poured perfume from her precious alabaster jar over Jesus’ feet, He asked, “Why criticize this woman for doing such a good thing to me?” (Matt. 26:10).
I wonder if this woman, as she dried Jesus’ feet with her hair, was not praising Jesus as much as she was beseeching Him? If each of her tears traced a path of abject inquiry upon His dusty skin:
Do you see me, Lord?
Will you help me, Lord?
Can you deliver me, Lord?
Are you who you say you are, Lord?
Who is like you, Lord?
A Quest for Hope
There comes a time when our grandest catechisms become a simple yet desperate quest for hope.
Tennyson, in his poem “In Memoriam,” said: "There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds." And indeed, the older I get, the more I realize how the ebb and flow of my faith coincides with my interrogation of Abba. Like the author of Psalm 35, many times I wonder who can possibly compare to the one who has rescued me (verse 10). And yet—sometimes in the same breath—I wonder where he is and what he’s doing in the midst of my wandering, my fear, and my doubt (verse 17).
From our first breath to our last, life is one continuous inquiry. You don’t have to be a journalist to understand that if there is nothing left to ask, there is nothing left to know. The questions themselves—that I possess the tiniest amount of faith necessary to ask in the first place—provide the answers to my impatient and impudent inquisitions, even if His reply is silence.
Because silence is not God’s failure to answer.
Rather, silence is the call to be still and know.