There was an offhand quote I read on Twitter last week that I immediately bookmarked, wrote down in my commonplace journal, and cannot stop thinking about:
“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”
—Zora Neale Hurston
Isn’t this the truth?
It’s not rocket science nor life-changing, but goodness did these words speak to me. There are, indeed, years that ask and years that answer. There are days and weeks and months and seasons and heck, sometimes even hours that ask and answer.
My January through April have asked questions, and they’ve blindsided me. I didn’t know even these were questions that needed asking, but there they were, waiting for me in 2023, sitting there without obvious answers. They asked, and asked, and asked some more, and while I searched for answers, none were found until very recently.
This whole season felt similar to entire recent years — I can look back and see, hindsight being what it is, that 2016 through 2019 were question-asking years for me, and 2020 through 2022 held answers. Those questions mostly related to faith, my work’s place in the world, roles and vocations, politics, lines in the sand, and church. Big stuff.
This time, these early 2023 questions have been more granular. They’ve been related to our day-to-day family mores and methods of learning, more particularly related to the school co-op with which we’ve been part for eight years, and where I’ve taught for five. Questions trickled out in early January, then quickly deluged into an unexpected waterfall in which I was rowing in a poorly-equipped canoe meant for a leisurely paddle. I was coughing and spitting up water while trying to stay afloat and keep my head above water. The questions slammed into me while I still needed to teach my classes and guide my own children.
The questions didn’t drown me. They were worthwhile and survivable, and my muscles grew stronger from them as I treaded above the riptides. My stronger arms and legs pulled me to shore, I climbed out and caught my breath, and only in the past few weeks, finally found answers.
At the risk of sounding increasingly more cryptic than I mean: this is the last week at our current beloved school. God has made it clear that it’s time to move on.
I know this may sound strange because I really only share the good stuff in my writing, mostly for privacy reasons. And I won’t get into specifics now, because they don’t really matter for the purpose of sharing this with you. But what I’m saying is this: in January of this year, I never would have guessed this would be our last academic year in this place that feels as familiar to us as our own home. But here we are, in May, and not only is it clear, but I have supernatural peace about the whole thing that can only be credited to God.
It helps that God answered with specific provision — the boys will start at a new school a mere five-minute drive away (vs. the hour-plus one-way commute we’ve been making all this time), this time only two days per week instead of three, and it will solidly align with my educational philosophy instead of tweaking a project-based learning environment to make-do with my classical sensibilities. I will be teaching again, upper-level literature to older high schoolers once more. The entire enterprise feels much less stressful than what we’ve been doing for the past few years. The only hangup is the theological difference, so we will see how these Protestants handle my 15-year-old’s proclivity for apologetic debate as a Catholic convert. 😉
The fact that God has provided a clear answer with clear provision doesn’t mean it’s not still ridiculously hard to walk away from what we’ve known for so long. This is our last week at our school full of people we love so much they feel like family. (It’ll be hard in particular for our youngest, so if you’re the praying type, would you mind remembering him?) A good answer for provision doesn’t mean freedom from heartache or loss.
This week holds my last classes with students I love so much it hurts, most of whom are young adults I’ve watched grow up since they were tweens. It’s my last foray with staff members who feel like sisters, celebrating traditions I can’t imagine living without (I mean, what’s late May without our Cardboard Boat Regatta?) — and then the week culminates with my oldest graduating with the rite of passage ceremony I’ve imagined for years. This month is full of answers, but this week asks a few more remaining questions: What are you doing here, God? How are you using this to further shape us into who we’re meant to be?
I share all this to encourage you, whether you’re in a season of questions or a season of answers. We live in both, routinely, and both usually show up unannounced. Both are necessary and usually survivable, but both involve scrapes and salves, and walking through ordinary life means finding the courage to live with it all.
I hope you find ways to lean into whichever season you find yourself in.
So tell me, because I’m curious: Are you in a season of questions or a season of answers?
Ora et Labora,
Wow. What a thought-provoking quote (and question!) I would have never put it that way, but it's exactly what 2023 has been for us. A Season of questions. My husband is stepping down as senior pastor of a church that was birthed in our living room almost a dozen years ago. A church full of people who are like family. Of children we have known since they were just an unanswered prayer. It's painful, but time. Like they have been for many in full-time ministry, the last few years have been hard. We wanted to make a change before becoming embittered or completely undone. He'll stay on as a part-time associate (even though that's a bit awkward) and will become part of what I'm calling the "Theological Gig Economy." Opportunities we haven't looked for have presented themselves, felt "absolutely perfect" and then have disappeared. So we wait. And ask questions. And wait for a season of answers. Thanks for sharing not just the good stuff with your readers, but the hard stuff as well. It makes one feel not so alone.
I, too, am in a year of questions. The only answer I have so far, is that there is no place for shame while waiting for answers. While I wait, I’m focusing on finding healing through my grief at the unexpected changes, drawing near to God for His and my own sake, and enjoying a summer of expectancy.