Question #2 - "What For?"
After beginning their journey with God, it isn't long before questions of "why" start surfacing. I call it the question of...
Once someone steps on the path of becoming a disciple of Jesus--a Christ-follower, they begin to learn the way of God. The way of God can be summed up as both learning how he longs for us to live as well as learning who he really is so that we can love him in this new life we’ve come to believe is the truth that sets the human soul free. It is quite exciting to discover the truth about life and where we come from and what we’re made for. Learning your purpose in life is no small thing and initially you can’t get enough, you’re starving for deeper understanding. Whatever you’re told to do chances are you’ll do it…it’s childlike in that way. It’s also a time when people are most likely to spread the news to everyone they know and love. As they should. They are learning truths that are transforming their values, perspectives, and actions.
But there comes a time when people begin to ask: “What for?” They know that it’s more than just knowing more or having more head knowledge. More than doing more and having more moral activity. You can memorize verses, recite prayers, and attend Bible studies and still be nagged by the question of motive. What drives all of this stuff? What is all this for? Am I doing this for me or them or God? What are the true intentions of my heart?
I think this is where a deepening of the heart comes into play. This is where the relationship is forged and formed. It’s quite possible that for a while following God is merely things to do, lists to follow, steps to take, songs to sing, prayers to pray, sermons to listen to, Christian to hang out with, books to read, money to tithe, ministry to get involved in. And all this is so important. It’s learning to fully obey and God says over and over again in the Scriptures that you show that you know and love him by obeying his commands. When feelings are there and when they aren’t.
But this is where the rub comes…“when feelings aren’t”. When the novelty of the trappings of church begin to wax and wane, and they will, your mind and heart begin to spar. When I say spar, I mean engage in the real conflict of doing and being, knowing about and really knowing. Questions start to come that at first you didn’t think about when you “started following Jesus”. You begin to see the hypocrisy of yourself and other Christians and you wonder if you are real, they are real, and consequently, if God is actually real? Is all this ‘make believe’, smoke and mirrors?
“What is all this about anyway?”
“What are we doing this for every week if nothing actually changes?”
“What is the meaning of this?”
“Why do I believe this and what does it matter?”
“Why do I follow God and obey his teachings?”
“Why is this happening to me if I’m obeying God?”
“What compels me to keep doing all this stuff?”
“Who am I doing this for, God or others?”
“Who really cares?”
Mindless actions and intellectual assent won’t satisfy at some point. Going through the motions will grate you at some point. People will want confirmation that something deeper, truer, richer, and fuller is happening underneath all the Christian activities. If it is not undergirded by more than tips and techniques, rules and regulations, programs and protocols...something deflating occurs.
You see, “What for?” actually takes them toward heart knowledge…deeper relationship. What usually causes this question is struggle or suffering. A real time of testing. Until your faith is tested, your ‘so-called’ beliefs are put on trial, you don’t ask, “Why?” It doesn’t even occur to most people until they hit a wall of some kind. It could be doubt, discouragement, or desperation. It might be a tragedy or a set of debilitating disappointments. As the emotion fades, the devotion is exposed. The needs are separated from the creeds. This is not to say emotion and needs have no place in Christianity…they certainly do. But growth happens when hardship and heartache sift our spirits and cause us to dig deep.
It happens in marriage in the same way. Vows are important commitments and pre-marriage counseling gives you some handholds and footholds that are quite helpful in the beginning. But as life go on, it has a way of challenging our dedication and determination. It causes us to question our assumptions and expectations. There are even times in a marriage relationship where you wonder if you “love” the person you’re married to because life has presented you with obstacles and opposition that force you to ask deeper questions of yourself and your spouse.
This is the stage of disillusionment where what you know, what you do, what you believe, what you want are all calling into question your true self. “What for?”
“What did you do that for?”
“What did I do that for?”
“What did they do that for?”
This is where a transactional relationship becomes a transformational one. The marriage has to move from the butler being married to the maid—to—the full-orbed man becoming one with the full-orbed woman. I would submit that this is what happens when people come into Question #2 of the Christian life. They are being forced through contractions and contradictions to reconcile good and evil, pain and pleasure, heaven and earth.
And I believe this: People want to do the right things for the right reason. They care whether the “What” is correctly hitched to the “What for?” If something is askew, they will twitch and glitch, and rightfully so. Their human spirit and the Holy Spirit are learning to live together, and convictions and preferences and desires are learning to abide with each other. John 15 speaks of this “abiding” and the “pruning” necessary for real love to be the “what for?” in the relationship.
As the dust settles a bit on the “why behind the what”, I’ve noticed people begin to wrestle and wonder about the “where behind the what”. Here’s what I mean…