Staying with the question
During the opening session of my week-long silent retreat, we were presented with the invitation to stay with the questions in our lives rather than rushing to find answers. Rainer Maria Rilke was quoted.
The next day I reflected on my questions, those unanswered mysteries that keep resurfacing and whirling around in my head.
Why me? is the question I have asked countless times over the course of my life. Why did God choose me at the age of eight? What did God expect from me? I was the least likely candidate to do anything great for God; I was a child in a working-class home with few resources and no influence. Why me?
In my twenties, I went on a Cursillo retreat and learned the slogan, God don’t make junk. I even got a button to wear with that quote. God may not make junk, I remember thinking, but God makes mistakes—and choosing me seemed to be one of them, because I could not see how I could serve God in any meaningful way.
On day two of my retreat, as I walked along a riverbank pondering my why question, my cousin Marlene came to mind. When she was being treated for pancreatic cancer, she told me that she had gotten to know some of the people who were on the same chemo schedule, and as they sat for hours getting infusions they would chat about cancer and how unfair it was. Why me? was the question people kept asking. My cousin said she had come to see that was the wrong question. Why not me? she asked.
Maybe that was true for my God question as well. Instead of asking why me? maybe the question I need to ask is why not me?
I started to think of other people God had called who might make me wonder about God’s decision-making abilities, people like Dorothy Day, who as a young adult led a somewhat non-conformist life. Or Frances Cabrini, who was considered by some people to be too frail to become a teaching sister. Or St. Augustine, who lived quite a hedonistic life until his conversion. Or scads of other people who seemed too inconsequential or too frail or who were on the highway to hell and then, bam, God called.
Lots of people who seemed unlikely vessels for God’s message turned out to be exactly what God needed.
Who knows, maybe I am one of them. Why not me?