FIRST-PERSON: 'Let me get back to you'
EL CAJON, Calif. (BP) -- When comedienne Amy Poehler gave the commencement address at Harvard University's 2011 graduation, she told the graduates, "Even though, as a class you are smart, you are still allowed to say, 'I don't know.' Just because you are in high demand, you are still allowed to say, 'Let me get back to you.'"
It is OK to use Ms. Poehler's second answer to life's hardest questions: Let me get back to you. But think about what this answer can mean.
First, when someone says, Let me get back to you, it can simply mean they're in a hurry; they're walking out the door and can't stop to talk.
Second, it can mean, I have time to talk but I'm really not interested. It may mean, I am saying I'll get back to you, but don't count on it. This is rude -- definitely not recommended.
Third, let me get back to you may be a form of procrastination -- again, not a good reason to delay getting involved.
There's something missing from all those replies: They don't contain the promise of an answer. All they say is, I don't have the knowledge, time or interest to respond right now.
Here is what I would recommend instead: When someone asks you a difficult question, consider a response that affirms the questioner and the question, allows you to be humble enough to admit you don't know the answer, and allows you to commit yourself to serving the person by working to find an answer.
It allows you the opportunity to continue the conversation at a later time -- especially important if the person is someone who is curious about the Christian faith.
Christians often are hesitant to share their faith with non-Christians because they fear being asked a question to which they don't know the answer. And there are some hard questions to be asked and answered: How do you explain the evidence for dinosaurs and evolution? What will happen to people who die without hearing about Jesus?
These and other questions are reasonable and deserve reasonable answers. And there are answers to be found.
But there are also questions that come up when talking with a friend, neighbor or coworker -- personal questions that go to the heart of our faith: Our newborn baby has died -- do infants go to heaven? I've committed a terrible sin -- how can I know God will forgive me?
Whether you are asked a question that might call for a scholar's reply or a question about living the Christian life, every Christian has the same responsibility to "be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you with meekness and fear" (1 Peter 3:15).
God doesn't expect us to know everything at every given moment. But when we don't know the answer, we should say, I don't know. But I will find the answer and get back to you.
The quest for answers
The root word at the heart of the word "question" is "quest." And quest doesn't just mean "to search for something." The dictionary says it is can be a long or arduous search. Built into the very idea of a question is the possibility that it will take some effort to find the answer (Proverbs 2:1-7).
Are you a "quester" (a questioner) when it comes to your own faith? As in having a desire for more and a deeper knowledge about God, His Word, His plan of redemption and the expansion of His Kingdom in the world. Are you a quester when it comes to knowing how to be a better spouse, a better parent, a wise steward of God's gifts, a better employee or employer?
As Christians, we have been rescued from a kingdom of lies and darkness and transferred into the Kingdom of God's Son (Colossians 1:12-14). Our entire reborn spiritual life should be a quest for God's truth. Only by renewing our mind in His truth will we learn to know and discern His will (Romans 12:1-2).
Research tells us that childhood is when we learn the fastest and our senior years are when we learn the least. But guess what? Jesus said adults are to live with the innocence and curiosity of children all our lives! (Mark 10:15). We should all be enrolled in a lifelong school of continuing spiritual education. How? Be a personal student of God's Word; attend a church that is faithful to build up the saints through strong and faithful teaching; read books of theology and practical Christian living; ask your pastor or others you trust for answers to your questions; and share your faith with others and help them gain the knowledge they need. In short, never stop learning!
And if you say, I don't know, but I'll find out and get back to you -- never fail to follow through.