I was waiting patiently in a doctor’s office when I spied one of those New Yorker magazines that has all the cartoons. Pictured at the bottom of one page was a drawing of a mother and son talking on the couch in their living room. The boy asked, ”Why…”, ”Why…”, ”Why…” The mother thoughtfully gave an answer only to have her son again say, ”Why?” What made the cartoon memorable was the title, ”The Tunnel of ’Why’s” For most, such a line of questioning usually ends with an abrupt conclusion, ”Because, just because! That’s why. Now go play outside.”
Eventually we become adults, but growing up doesn’t change the tunnel of ”Why”s. They just become more complicated. Why does so and so act like that? Why can’t people just get along? Why has this happened (or not) to me? As advanced as we are in science and technology, we still can’t explain why one gets cancer and another doesn’t. Why does ISIS believe in a murderous manner in the name of a god that abhors their violence. Why? Why? Why?
”Why” questions often become religious questions: Why doesn’t God help? Why doesn’t He do something? Why did God allow this to happen? On my annual pilgrimage to the dermatologist, the doctor asked, “Now we can freeze it off, but it might come back. On the other hand, we could ‘scrape and burn.’” (Actually, I was wondering if we could ask my mother to come, kiss it and make it all better.) We went for “S & B” and while he had me under the knife, he asks, “”What do you tell people who wonder why Christianity teaches that Jesus is the oinly way to God?” About that time I was ‘burning’ and I said something feeble about not having a simple answer and that helping people follow Jesus was our main task, regardless of religious tradition. Ministers often get invited into the tunnel of “Why”s.
Wouldn’t life be wonderful if there were simple answers to life’s questions? In a Calvin &Hobbes cartoon, the little boy is sitting on the back step with his father looking at an old photo. Calvin asks why it’s black and white. Dad simply explained answered that the whole world was black and white right up until 1952. That’s when the world turned to color. (How’s that for a simple answer?)
Simple answers can help us move forward, but always seem to lack something.
I’ve often thought that very nature of a ”why” question takes you into the realm of the divine. ”Why” questions focus our attention on the mystery of God, explanations that He has kept only for Himself. In our frustration over the lack of simple answers, we may make them up. ”It happened because of their sin.” ”It hasn’t happened because there wasn’t enough faith.” ”It must have happened for a reason.” I’m afraid those become simple ”Calvin” explanations. Sometimes there is no reason. Many people asked Jesus ”Why” questions and he rarely gave simple answers. He often responded by giving them something to do. But once, in the presence of a blind man, they asked, ”…who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind.” (John 9). In other words, ”Why” is he blind? And Jesus said, ”Neither…but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” When you enter the tunnel of ”why”s, remember to look for His work in you, what you can do.