Tough Questions - Guest Post from Vanessa Kohler
Vanessa Kohler is a cadet at the School for Officer Training. She shared this last week in our worship time, and I've asked her if I could post it here.
There are a lot of questions that one could ask themselves, particularly during these 2 years of intense learning in this environment. At times, I’m not sure what I actually do think about things. Sometimes, because I don’t feel certain about what I think about a lot of things, I worry that I can be swayed into believing this, that or the other. This is especially the case when it comes to matters of theology, which are inextricably linked to ones faith. You can get to a point where you think you have a grasp on some of the essentials of the faith, like Jesus, and then, in an instant, a question is asked, a new thought presented, and suddenly you’re not so sure about it all.
By my very nature, I’m a bit of a question asker. I am the queen of questions. How do we do this? Why does this happen the way it does? Am I doing this right? One of the important things I’ve realised in my 2 years at the School for Officer Training is that the more I know, the more I realise I don’t know anything at all.
This has been a place where I have asked many questions. Questions such as
- Did the creation story in Genesis really happen, or was it just a myth?
- Am I really doing the right thing being here at the School for Officer Training at this stage of my life?
- What kind of Officer do I want to be?
- How do I know what is truth and what isn’t?
- How do we do church?
- Is there really a person called “Satan”, or is he something that has been constructed by the church and bible translators?
- Who is Jesus? Really?
- Who is Vanessa Kohler?
I discovered recently that even people like John Wesley battled with big questions.
As a young minister, he felt that he wasn’t sure in anything. He felt like he could be way too easily swayed by new doctrine. He had knowledge, he had reason and he had the traditions of the church to base things on, but he felt he was lacking experience, namely, the experience of the Holy Spirit as an assurance of God in his life. So he started asking questions…
So Wesley asked questions back then… and I ask questions today… Does it mean that I’m going to be the next John Wesley? No. But it does mean that in his 30′s, after having been a man of faith for a long time, after being a minister and a preacher for a long while, Wesley still had questions.
It reassured me that even though I’m about to become a Salvation Army Officer, it is OK to still have questions…
It’s still OK to be grappling with questions regarding theology, with how I do ministry, with what kind of leader I want to be, with what my dreams are for the future, with my view of God. I don’t have to have it all together to be able to lead God’s people. The fact is, no matter how hard I try to understand everything, I’m never going to come close to understanding the mystery of Christ in all its fullness. Our confidence as leaders cannot come from feeling like “we’ve got it”. Paul reminds us of this in 2 Corinthians 3:4-6. He says “Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant- not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
It is Christ who makes us competent. It is Christ who ultimately equips us for this task ahead of us. I can try all I like to understand everything there is to know, but ultimately it is Christ who makes me competent, not my knowledge or grasp on complex theological concepts. Trusting in this releases us from a lot of pressure that we seem to put on ourselves to “get it”.
I’m not saying that we can just sit back and claim that God will reveal to us what he wants to reveal, and that’s that. As future leaders of The Salvation Army, and soon to be ministers of Jesus Christ, we cannot be ignorant. For us, ignorance is not bliss. We have a responsibility to really engage with and grapple with these hard questions. We have to know why we believe what we believe. We have to ask the tough questions and be open to what God wants to reveal to us. We have a responsibility to grapple with the tough stuff, but we don’t have to know it all.
In amongst the many questions that are raised at the School for Officer Training, there is one thing I will never have to question- my experience of Jesus, and the hope and life that He brings. In amongst all that is uncertain, this is one thing I know for sure. This is what I will preach. That I have been crucified with Christ and it’s not longer I that live, but Christ who lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20) May we be people who don’t shy away from asking the tough questions. May we be people who are prepared to grapple with tough concepts. But most of all may we be people who live by unquestionable faith in the son of God, who loved us, and gave Himself for us.
About Vanessa Kohler...