Intriguing, insightful answers to your thorny theological queries
The Value of Questioning
DEAR DR. TOM: Would you comment on the following
ideas? Answers stop spiritual growth; questions further
it. Questions are more important than answers. Seek the
right questions rather than the right answers.
—E.A., Marthasville, Missouri
DEAR E.A.: Interesting inquiry. Here’s my take on questions
vs. answers: Good questions are tools to good answers, but
I don’t think you want to sit in life’s workshop admiring
the tools on the wall. Ask the hard questions. Turn every
idea upside down to see if there is an expiration date
stamped on the bottom. Love the tools and the work they
produce. Good questions lead to good answers, but every
answer is subject to rethinking, just as every finished job
requires tools for ongoing maintenance.
DEAR DR. TOM: If there is “divine order,” do you believe
everything happens for a reason?
—S.D., Los Angeles, California
DEAR S.D.: Everything? No. Humans tend to imbue
every happenstance with meaning, but sometimes the
best recourse is just to say, like the Dales people in the
James Herriot novels did, “These things happen.” This
is probably why the biblical writers emphasized over
and over: “Trust in the Lord …” The Unity principle of
divine order isn’t about cause and effect and some secret
meaning behind every event. Divine order happens when
we ask, “How can I respond to this situation to bring forth
the highest good?” It doesn’t bless pain and suffering; it
blesses adaptability and faith, regardless of circumstances.
DEAR DR. TOM: How can I tell the difference between
a mystical experience and an imaginative/fantasy
—S.L., Kansas City, Missouri
DEAR S.L.: If the experience produced something good,
what difference does it make? Mystical encounters are
overrated. There is an oft-told anecdote about a novice
Catholic monk who tells his spiritual guide, “Father, I
know my prayers are becoming more powerful, because
the last three nights a full-sized apparition of the Virgin
appeared at the foot of my bed!” To which the wise elder
monk replied, “Very good, Brother. Now, if you persist in
prayer, it will go away.” The point of the monastic legend
is that spiritual growth isn’t about miraculous events, it’s
about an increasing awareness of the love of God.
Don’t think I’m trying to discourage you from spirit
quests. Far from it. Mystical experiences can be uplifting,
as Native Americans and other indigenous people around
the world well know. But the vision itself is not the goal.
DEAR DR. TOM: It’s been more than a year since your heart
surgery. How are you doing?
—Former Student, Location Withheld
DEAR F.S.: Walking with ease—assisted by a cane for
occasional balance aid. Writing full on—I have three new
sci-fi novels out this past summer, and three more on
the drawing board. (Check out my “Star Lawyers” series,
listed on amazon.com as science fiction/visionary and
metaphysical.) Enjoying hot, dry Tucson, Arizona, where
my wife, sister-in-law, and I have moved into our newly
constructed “forever home” (Carol-Jean’s term). Life is
good, even when you’re on portable oxygen. Love all you
folks. Thanks for the cards and notes.
DEAR DR. TOM: I lost a daughter a few years ago. She was
16. I was wondering if angels really do exist. Could loved
ones be around us in angelic forms?
—M. W., Kansas City, Missouri
DEAR M.W.: As I write this, I can feel Unity Magazine
readers around the globe take a deep breath and send
you their love. Absolutely, your daughter is an angel,
and her spirit goes with you forever. All the religions of
humanity have affirmed that something lives on after the
body ceases to support its resident spiritual being. We
don’t know the details of what to expect when we have, in
Shakespeare’s words, “shuffled off this mortal coil.” But life
exists and energy persists. So close your eyes and feel your
daughter’s loving presence. Have a conversation with her,
and “hear” the words she might say. And know that God is
with you—and your daughter—every step of the way.
REV. THOMAS SHEPHERD, D.MIN.,
FORMER PROFESSOR OF THEOLOGY AND
CHURCH HISTORY AT UNITY INSTITUTE®
AND SEMINARY, IS THE AUTHOR OF MANY
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