Always Asking Why

Today’s post in the From Grape Juice to Red Wine series is by Cara Strickland of Little Did She Know. I had the pleasure of meeting Cara in real life a few months ago and have since continued our friendship online. I find when I visit her space on the internet, I take a deep breath and let go of the tension in my shoulders. She is so real, comfortable and positive in her approach to life. Stop by her page; I think you’ll agree.

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When I was giving my senior presentation, talking about the collection of interconnected short stories I had written over several months and countless hours, a friend offered to introduce me. She stood in front of the class and said something that I have never been able to forget. “Cara is always asking questions,” she said. “She is constantly asking why, or what if.”

She was right. That story collection itself was born out of a “why?” that I had for God. I was that child who was always seeking to know the answer, to understand, to find meaning in everything.

When I was in high school, I completely immersed myself in Jewish theology. For a time, I considered becoming a Messianic Jew, complete with all of the festivals and merriment, Shabbat and candles and fasting.

It was, perhaps, this very fascination which led me to the work of Lauren Winner. I remember standing in my local bookstore, not yet old enough to drive, and reaching for Girl Meets God.

It was only later, after I had started attending an Episcopal church in college, after another friend had given me a copy of Living the Church Year (with a foreword by Lauren Winner, my reason for picking it up) that I realized just how formative those first words I read of hers were. I re-read Girl Meets God before Still  came out, and slid between the covers of Mudhouse Sabbath again as well. Though our stories are different, there are striking similarities in our paths.

Instead of a Jewish upbringing, I came to liturgical Christianity by way of the Evangelical church. She speaks of missing some of the trappings of the Jewish faith in Mudhouse Sabbath. For all of the hard things about my church past, there are things that I miss, too.

As a meaning-maker, growing up in the Evangelical church was not easy. I wanted to know why we did communion only once a month, theologically. As I saw it, when Jesus said “as often as you do this,” he had either been referring to Passover (I stubbornly refused to take communion other than at a Seder for a few years), each time we gathered for church, or each time we gathered, period. The once a month thing (or sporadic communion) really threw me for a loop.

It was the Eucharist, central to the liturgy, which first taught me to love my little Episcopal church in the heart of Indiana. As I knelt in front of the altar, words of life spoken to me and over me, real tangible food and drink given to me, to strengthen me, I found the meaning I sought.

At those Seder dinners I studied and attended, I was fascinated by the part of the evening where the kids would ask questions, questions they already knew the answers to. They asked their elders about the ways that God had been faithful, and were answered, so that they wouldn’t forget. It was a beautiful liturgy, a liturgy of “why?” and “because.”

As I walk through life now, I still find myself asking “why?” Often, I direct this question to God. I once heard a speaker say that when a child asks a question, it isn’t always because she wants to know the answer, but because she wants a conversation, she wants relationship. For me, liturgy is one of the ways that God tells me the stories of my history, my present and my future. Like one of those children during Passover, I ask, and I am not disappointed.

 

cara profileI’m Cara Strickland. When you first meet me, you might think that I’m quiet or reserved.  I’m still learn-ing how to relax my fingers, gripping tightly to how it should look and how I should be. I’d love to have a cup of tea or a glass of wine with you, to gradually pull out a few of my broken pieces, matching them up with yours and watching them sparkle in the light. You can connect with me on my blog, Little Did She Know, or over on Twitter.