We shut the door to the empty house and step out onto the patio overlooking the grass and blooms that have exploded carelessly in the absence of weekly taming. It just needs a little attention, I’m sure.
I’ve lost count which number house this is. My fiancé and I have looked at so many together that I can’t remember which is which, what I like or don’t like, what he likes and doesn’t like. Even though our realtor insists the exhausting search means we’re zeroing in on a place that works for both of us, it fuels my fear that we won’t find a home we both like.
This one isn’t perfect, but that’s the way I want it. The gentle shift of hardwood slats under my feet, crusty single pane windows, and mismatched fireplace tiles are rich with stories. And the people who would be our neighbors are colorful, eccentric. We’d be walking more than driving, and shopping at the stores of neighbors more than corporations.
I want to ask my fiancé what he thinks of this house, but our ideas of home have ignited our most explosive discussions in the two years I’ve known him. Our perspectives differ enough that I once ended our relationship because I was certain we didn’t want the same things.
I wasn’t wrong, but even now—with greater love and understanding and tools for conflict resolution—each time we step away from a place that feels like home to me, my whole body stiffens. We buckle our seatbelts in a thick silence like the one between the symphony’s last reverberation and the conductor’s extended arms—it begs to be relieved. I want to know his thoughts, but I also don’t. What if they are, yet again, opposite of mine? At this point I’ve developed a habit of holding my breath and bracing myself as soon as I find the courage to ask, What did you think?
I push the stale air out of my lungs and look out the car window at the nestled homes whizzing by, wondering when we’ll have our chance to settle peacefully together.
He says he’s concerned about this house being in a flood zone. It’s not a no, but I know him well enough to gather it’s not a yes. I push the stale air out of my lungs and look out the car window at the nestled homes whizzing by, wondering when we’ll have our chance to settle peacefully together.
Weary and exasperated, I run straight from these conversations and held breaths to God, and I say, Lord, lead us to the right place. Send us where we can be heaven on earth. I know You have already taken care of this. Then I move along to washing the dishes in my sink or catching up on work, and that’s when I realize God and I don’t share that space of tormenting silence that I have with my fiancé. There is no question mark with which I can hang on His every word; there is no waiting, wondering, considering, or weighing.
My conversations with God aren’t too far off from the model Jesus gave us, echoing “Your kingdom come…give us…deliver us.” But the downside of praying declarations is that I manage to have a conversation with God without fully acknowledging His agency.
David Cooperrider, who studies how the questions leaders ask determine the strategy and fate of their business or organization, says we live in the world our questions create. In asking a question, we recognize the possibility of no and its implications, yes and its implications, and anything in between. It’s the same thing I take into consideration when asking my fiancé whether he wants to make an offer on a home. I imagine us cooking dinner there and continuing walk-throughs for months and giving him more time to think about it—all the while aware that my future depends on his response.
I’m not arguing against the way Jesus taught us to pray—I have stories that testify to the value of declaring His goodness with a period at the end of my sentence, and stories of steadfastly pleading for His intervention. But after several weeks of praying questions, I want to incorporate questions into my dialogue with God as a discipline. When my prayers feel too heavy to hold, that pause after the question mark reminds me of all the possibilities in which God can reveal Himself in my little world.
So my fiancé and I schedule another string of house visits with our realtor, and we wait. I think of the failed trips before, and I pray, God, will You lead us to our house? In the silence, I know He may not. He could send us to an apartment or a different city. When I see the appointment in my planner, the date creeping up, I pray, Will You send us to a place we both love? It’s quiet, and it’s possible my fiancé or I will concede more than the other. But I exhale anyway because I know God fills the entire space my questioning creates.