Helping the Questioners Find Their Answers

Helping the Questioners Find Their Answers

Jim Stinson, Former Consultant on Older Adult Ministries


There is nothing like a fall day—looking out the sliders and watching the leaves blow off the trees—to get the thoughts flowing. It seems as if the newness of spring and the warmth of summer came and went without a warning.

Thoughts of all the passages of life.

Thoughts of the people I have loved who have died.

Thoughts of churches served and friends of yesteryear.

Thoughts of sick loved ones and dear friends.

Thoughts of 13 years working with and ministering to older adults.

And then a specific memory of the woman at United Methodist Homes who asked me questions often raised by older people and people of every age who are facing mortality.

“What really happens when I die?

“Suppose my faith is not really faith when I most need it?”

They were, and they are, deeply spiritual questions. But in the end, the questions must be answered by the one asking because they call for a heartfelt, Spirit-motivated, response.

“On what do I ultimately rely?”

That is the question, and the individual must find the answer within himself or herself. Regardless of one’s age, facing the autumn of life, as the winds of change begin to strip away familiar anchors, the question must be faced. The answer lies within the individual.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes, a poet and United Methodist pastor, seems to reach the same conclusion in his poem, “Sometimes the Wind.” (Weavings, Vol. 32, No. 1). His poem 

is both personal and pastoral. It speaks to and from his heart, even as it speaks to other hearts seeking answers.

“Sometimes the wind that strips everything
is the strong breathing of a yes.

The river of life wears away your little island
and bears you somewhere fertile. 

Receive the gift only departing can bestow,
the holy not in what is anointed
but in what is next,
the beginning beyond the silence beyond the end.

In thickest darkness is a door felt, not seen.
It gives. 

Beside you in confidence
God is uncompleting the journey for you.

Lay your hand on the dark door. A voice 
says, “Come, join my becoming.”

Those in ministry with and to older adults do not need creedal answers to life’s most difficult questions. We lead others to faith by bearing witness in word, but also, perhaps more effectively, in deed, to a God whose announcement is: Emmanuel. God is with us. Rely on the eternal presence. By your empathetic and attentive presence be God’s messenger through accompanying the questioner on the journey.