I ask the question, and I know the answer
I have gotten in a lot of trouble asking the same question over and over in my life.
Though the answers rarely were simple, the question was: Why?
Teacher: You’re going to need to know these mathematical equations by Friday.
Me: OK. Why?
Teacher: Because it is the assignment and I told you to do it.
Me: OK. But why?
Teacher: Go see Mr. McGowan.
Principal McGowan: Ah, Campbell, why are you in my office?
Me: Mrs. X told me to come see you?
McGowan: OK. Why?
Me: That’s what I said.
I wasn’t trying to be sarcastic or rebellious. It came naturally, but I honestly did want an answer to my question.
Why was it important for me to know those equations?
From an adult’s standpoint — and as someone who has had the opportunity to teach a bit for virtually every age group — the only correct answer the teacher needed to give was precisely what I got: Because I said so.
But it wasn’t the answer I wanted.
I knew I needed to know the material for the assignment, for the quizzes and the upcoming end-of-term exams. I knew it was what the textbook dictated and what the lesson plans said needed to be taught and what the district mandated because it was what the state said and what … ahem. Yeah.
My mother was a teacher.
But why were those equations necessary for a teenager in rural Mississippi? How were they going to benefit me? What were the reasons behind teaching that material?
If I understood the WHY, I thought, I would be motivated to learn the material.
I was going to study it and learn it, anyway. And I was good at math, so it wasn’t a big deal. But I wanted to be motivated to learn it because I knew the why behind it.
It’s the same question I’ve asked countless times since.
I’m grateful my parents bought the full set of Encyclopedia Britannica when I was a child. It was Google before everyday people knew that word even existed.
As a hyper, easily-distracted and extremely curious child, I’m sure I kept my parents busy with all the why questions.
Why is the sky blue? Why is the sky called the sky? Why is blue blue instead of green? Is God’s favorite color green? If green beans were blue would they be blue beans or would we be asking why green beans are called green beans instead of blue beans if they’re blue instead of green?
Why are you counting and taking deep breaths, Momma?
My questions are sometimes just as pointless even now, but sometimes they’re really searching for more meaningful answers.
Why am I here? I mean, right here, in this place at this time doing what I’m doing?
Why am I still alive? Why have I survived some of the things I’ve survived?
Why did my best friend get killed in an accident when I was 13 and he was 12?
Why do several people in my family have debilitating illnesses and chronic pain?
Why do the innocent suffer?
Why does anyone abuse a dog?
Why does anyone abuse a child?
Why does anyone kill a child because the pregnancy wasn’t wanted?
Why does a man pick up an assault rifle, dress himself in body armor and walk into a church and begin shooting innocent people? Especially infants?
Why does God allow these things to keep happening?
I don’t have simple answers.
I believe in a good God. I believe in an all-knowing, all-powerful God.
I believe he created us and gave us the ability to choose to do whatever we want. Some choose evil.
I believe God will one day hold every person accountable for what they’ve done — what we’ve done. And I don’t believe there are always easy answers or answers we like.
In the biblical book of Job, the titular character loses almost all he has — property, livestock, children, health — except his nagging wife. When he finally breaks down and asks God why all this was happening to him, God gave a simple answer.
It was basically: You don’t need to know why. You just need to trust me.
God could have told him it was all part of a plan to prove to the devil that Job would stick with God no matter what, and that all this would be over soon. But God just said, you don’t need to know why. Just trust me.
There are a lot of whys I’ll never know the answers to, and although I’ll still wonder, I’m OK with that.
I’ll just keep trusting God to take care of things when the time comes. For me, it’s the best answer.
News editor Brett Campbell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 601-265-5307.