The 95-year-old mother of one of our friends and key supporters died early this year. She was the matriarch of a very large family, and hearing him talk about her led me to ask him to tell me one thing that stood out in his mind about his mother’s life. His answer surprised me. “She was a questioner. She always asked lots of questions, right up to the end.”
Now what you have to realize is that she was also a believer — a very strong, unshakable believer. Her belief and her questioning nature were all part of the same outlook on life. This is an important example to set, in light of the prevailing thinking that would claim that these two things are incompatible — that questioning would seem to rule out faith, and faith would seem to rule out questions. Not so. Actually, one makes the other possible. It’s the opposite of what you might think. A strong faith allows you the freedom to doubt and ask lots of questions. (It’s a weak faith that can’t entertain questions for fear that an unanswerable one might undermine it.) And having lots of questions makes faith necessary. We can’t figure it all out; we can’t answer everything; each new day brings new challenges to our faith, therefore we need a strong faith to hold us together.
This mother/grandmother/great grandmother had to hold quite a diverse family together. One of the family members described their family this way: “There were pre-marriage pregnancies. Divorces. Adultery. Drugs. Alcoholism. Gay marriages. Greed. Mis-led aspirations. But after a bit of a struggle, none of it kept her from loving us with all of her heart.” That fierce loyalty to family love, and to everyone’s right to live their lives and struggles out in the open, is truly a rare and beautiful thing.
Sadly, it should not be as rare as it is, because Grace turned Outward loves like this. All of our churches should be like this. Christian love loves without reservation.
As I read and reflected on this description of family, I immediately thought: “Hey, she just described us! That’s our Catch community!” It made me want to adopt this woman as our grandmother, except that she has already passed on, but there’s nothing against us making her our posthumous matriarch. We’ll just have to get some more stories from my friend so that she can still affect lives through her memory.
At 95, she was still living with contradictions — maybe more than ever — and an unshakable faith. Both at the same time. This is as good as it gets, and for one grandmother, that was good enough.