“Ask and it will be given you; search and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you.” ~ Matthew 7.7, NRSV
“Ask and it shall be answered.” How I wish that this were one of the promises of God. But, unfortunately, this is not the case. The Bible is filled with questions for which no answer is given: “Why do the nations conspire and the people plot in vain” (Psalm 2.1)? Even Jesus asked a question that went unanswered, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Matthew 27.46)?
I find it amazing that the Book of Life includes unanswered questions, that the God who knows all things does not tell us everything. Selah.
Still, questions are necessary for they suggest that an answer is possible, whether we know it not. Life is not just about finding the answers but looking for and discovering the right question. Questions not answers increase what is possible. It is not if we believe the answer but rather if we find the question that opens the door.
Race causes us to question. This social construct leads us to question our life’s meaning and worth, the motives and intentions of neighbors and strangers and even the very love of God for us. Some questions are not good for us as it is possible to ask the wrong questions.
They are wrong because they are asked of someone or in this case, something (i.e. race) that cannot and will not ever be able to provide a truthful and thereby valuable answer. When I began my intense study of race nearly ten years ago, I began with question upon question, initially believing that race was the answer, that it would explain everything, that it would clear up the matter of the command of God to love and the command of race to hate, that it would bring some sort of balance to my practice of the Christian faith and my belief in race and its socially agreed upon identities. I interrogated race for years and I have discovered that race does not have the answers that I or you are searching for.
The best question that I ever asked that changed my conversation with race was this: “Do I have to be black?” I know now that it was the right question. Initially, I didn’t know what the answer would do. But, it unraveled the cords of race from around my life; it loosed its grip on me. I was being liberated, becoming race-less just like that! The question suggested that it was possible for me to live life without race and the question alone stripped race of its authority over my life.
Of course, for race and I to continue our relationship, the answer would have been, “Yes.” I could be nothing else. I could not change. Race would have no use for me any other way. But, I couldn’t accept my new position as a new creature in Christ and remain the same racialized self. The question challenged me to make my life the answer and my search for the right question was over.