Ask … Seek … Knock
"And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” ( Luke 11:9-10).
What is Jesus talking about when he says to ask, seek and knock in this Gospel passage? I have been grappling with this very well-known message from Jesus for some time. Sometimes I ask but don’t receive; I seek but don’t find; and I knock but there seems to be no answer. And to be very honest, sometimes I just don’t like to ask. To ask seems at times to be putting myself in a vulnerable position. The same is true of seeking and knocking. This is especially true when it comes to asking God. Maybe vulnerability is what it is all about.
When I was a junior in high school my family moved. This move meant a new high school and a new culture, leaving friends and feeling much anxiety. Early on in this experience at the new school, which had 3,600 students, I asked a question of the teacher. The teacher (in my high school frame of mind) jumped all over me about the question, and I was embarrassed and confused. I don’t remember the question, and I don’t remember the exact response; but to this day I remember how words can hurt, and I decided not to speak in class anymore. And I didn’t for a long while.
The word vulnerable comes from the Latin word vulnus, or wound. When we are vulnerable we are open to being wounded, we feel exposed, endangered, open and sensitive. Asking a question, seeking in the unknown and knocking on a closed door are situations that make us vulnerable. It would be easier not to ask the question so as not to be shut down or hurt. It would be more comfortable staying where one is in life and looking to oneself rather than opening a door.
Maybe Jesus is talking about a different kind of asking, the asking of deeper questions. Maybe the asking, seeking and knocking are not separate but are all part of the journey process. At the heart of our faith lives there are certain questions all of us ask. Why are we here? Why is there suffering? What happens when we die? Sometimes these are the questions we don’t want to think about. Then there are those questions that stir the imagination. The questions that emerge when looking at a newborn baby and marveling at its beauty, watching the snow fall, gazing at the ocean, being stunned by a rainbow, spending the day with a friend – all of that brings us to the question of creation, its beginnings and the importance of relationships.
When we approach our questions from vulnerable positions we open ourselves to a deeper way of living. We also open ourselves to experiencing our woundedness. We may see our vulnerability as weakness. Capuchin Father Richard Rohr describes this vulnerability as the position of a beggar, a petitioner, a radical dependent. He explains, “This is always our spiritual posture, if we are honest. To know that you don’t know, to know that you are always in need, keeps you situated in right relationship with Life itself. Life is a gift, totally, given to you without cost.”
I ask more questions now. It still requires this vulnerability, this humility; but on my best day, I am thankful for living with the questions, exploring them on the journey and opening new doors to understanding God’s presence in my life. Vulnerability is the door to this reality.