What Has Power Over You?

American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr once observed that “nothing is more unbelievable than the answer to a question that is not asked.”  That is, if we do not care enough to ask the questions (who is God, what is the meaning of my life, etc.), then the answers will mean nothing to us.  We will not believe, simply because we do not care.

Anyway, this idea of the importance of the question is worth exploring further, but for now I would just like to use it to preface some very important questions from Romano Guardini in his book The Lord.  Here he is:

[W]hat is it that actually has power over us? What rules me? People, mainly. Those who speak to me, whose words I read; those with whom I associate or would like to associate; the people who give or withhold, who help or hinder me; people I love or influence or to whom I am bound by duty—these rule in me. God counts only when people permit him to, when they and their demands leave me time for him. God rules only in spite of people; when under their influence I am not too strongly tempted to feel that he does not exist at all. He reigns only inasmuch as consciousness of his presence is able to force itself upon me, to coexist with the people in my life….Things also rule in me: things I desire, by the power of that desire; things that bother me, by their bothersomeness; things I encounter wherever I go, by the attraction they have for me or by the attention which they demand. Things in general, by their very existence, fill the spiritual ‘space’ both within and around me, not God. God is present in me only when the crowding, all-absorbing things of my world leave room for him—either in or through them, or somewhere on the periphery of their existence. No, God certainly does not dominate my life. Any tree in my path seems to have more power than he, if only because it forces me to walk around it! What would life be like if God did rule in me? (emphasis added)

He’s right…a tree is more real to me than God!  Isn’t that absurd?!?  How can a tree be more real to me than the ever-living God?  This is the question; and even if we don’t find a satisfactory answer, we can’t let the question go or explain it away with easy answers (e.g. God wants us to seek him out, etc.).  Better to simply say “I don’t know!”  To me, this is a better path to wisdom: to stay with the question, to stay with the “contradiction,” and not reduce the problem (reality) for the “safe” ground of certainty.  It is only from here that we can launch out into the deep waters of faith with a little push, which also comes in the form of a question:  What would life be like if God did rule in me?  Imagine the possibilities!

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