A devious little question, Cancer, Change the Question, Cul de sac of futility, Devious little question, Fatalistic, Future Oriented?, Life long learning, Now What?, Prayer, Present Oriented, Que Sera Sera, Question of faith, Questions that expect an answer, The change of the question, The Learning Cycle, What are you waiting for?, What's Next?, Whatever
I had cancer 28 years ago.
It’s old news; but it was big news at the time.
Sometimes I think I should have just moved on from that epoch; other times, I know why I get to remember it now.
I talk about that period as the time to change the question.
Change the Question
It was time to change the question from “why me?”
When we have life changing crisis moments, it is completely natural to ask the ubiquitous lament “why me?”. It wants an answer to be sure, but I don’t know if the answer can be understood until you go through what you have to go through.
“Why me” is often asked into the ether, to an anonymous god, as if the universe owes you an answer; as if the god you do not believe in ought now to be listening to you.
At the time I had cancer, I was growing in faith in the Living God, the personable, relatable God in Christ, and I asked the question half expecting an answer. In other words, I wasn’t cynical about the question. I think that God was in fact, answering me… and the answer was too profound, too deep, too complex for me to understand at the time.
“Why me” is often a question that doesn’t expect an answer – it is given in frustration, in anger, in a feeble attempt to justify why one should not believe in the God whose sovereignty we misunderstand as control on our ego-centric behalf.
What is a better Question?
The better question, I came to find, is a question that expects an answer. It is a question from the arena of faith. It is a question whose answer can be acted upon:
When you receive, find, or otherwise devise an answer to this question, you simply take the next step. The most important thing to do is not to map out a well-planned future; it is to take the very next step: What now?
Now I pick myself up and go.
Now I take care of matters within my control.
Now I ask for direction from God and from others in my world.
Now I take care of myself, and let others take care of me too…
This is the kind of question that can introduce you to the learning cycle rather than spin you into a cul de sac of futility.
But… “What’s Next?” is a devious little question. On the surface it appears to be a variation on the theme of “what now.” The problem with going to the “what’s next” question too quickly is the problem of always being future oriented at the expense of being present.
In the years leading up to my retirement, I continually asked myself “what’s next?” The spiritual director I was seeing in the last year of my career observed:
“You are always concerned about “what’s next.” How about “what’s now?”
This stopped me in my tracks. I had taken the “what’s next” question to be positive, taking control of my future, and taking action. I didn’t realize it was a way of staving off the fear of being present, of ignoring where I was at. I was reluctant to admit how afraid I was of the future by continually asking questions of it.
At that time, Now was the time to be present; to be in touch with my fears; to contemplate the enormous transition from my 33 year career to the next chapter, while not being too quick to skip over the present tense of the chapter I was in.
Que Sera Sera?
The translation is closest to Spanish, but it really is Italian in origin. The phrase became a major part of the lexicon when Doris Day had a big hit with the song ‘Que Sera, Sera‘. ‘Whatever will be, will be’ means that the future is up in the air, and whatever is going to happen, is going to happen.
But remember the lyrics are from the point of view of a little girl asking her mother a host of unanswerable future oriented questions.
“She wonders if she will be rich and pretty. Then in the chorus, her mother tells her that whatever is going to happen is going to happen. If it’s meant to be, then it’s meant to be, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
The phrase is used today as a way of expressing acceptance for something that you can no longer control.”
On the surface, there is some wisdom to the answer, even though it is throughly fatalistic. Unfortunately, this is an answer that doesn’t expect any insight, knowledge, or wisdom. I think we can expect more.
If you haven’t asked lately, or if you are spinning in a cul de sac of futility, let me nudge you to ask God and ask yourself, “what now?”
This is partly what prayer is about.
I suspect you will get an answer.