Room for Leaving Questions Open

These days, Kasey Musgraves is well-known for having successfully crossed over to pop music, but the 35-year-old musician has been releasing country albums for over a decade. With her country roots still evident in her music, the wider appeal of her music can perhaps be attributed to the personal, honest, and “rebellious” feel of her lyrics.1

Since her 2018 album, Golden Hour, the seven-time Grammy winner has seen increasing popularity. In 2021 she again gained significant attention with her album Star-Crossed, which in part dealt with her divorce after a three-year marriage. Musgrave’s recent album, Deeper Well, explores even more significant themes as she searches for meaning and purpose in life. In the song “The Architect,” the singer wonders if there is a God—and if there is, does he care about us?

Is There an Architect?
“The Architect” begins with what seems like a genuine reflection on the small wonders of the natural world, as Musgraves contemplates the complexity of an apple:

Even something as small as an apple
It’s simple and somehow complex
Sweet and divine, the perfect design
Can I speak to the architect?

In asking, “Can I speak to the architect?” Musgraves is immediately introducing the idea of a Creator into the narrative of her song. While Musgraves is not a Christian and her music often includes lyrics that directly or indirectly criticize religion, the musician still entertains the possibility of a God as she actively wonders about what kind of God the Creator might be.

Musgraves then asks whether there really is a design or if it just seems that there might be:

Was it thought out at all?
Or just paint on a wall?
Is there anything that you regret?
I don’t understand, are there blueprints or plans?
Can I speak to the architect?

While the verses of “The Architect,” commenting on the wonders of the natural world, are easy for Christians to appreciate, some Christians might start to be more uncomfortable as Musgraves’ lyrics turn to questioning God himself. Does God have regrets about the world he made? Was there any design to begin with? Are our lives just left up to chance? To some, these might seem like dangerous questions to ask. But in fact they lead us to the heart of the matter and to Musgraves’ own heart. In the next verse, she sings:

Sometimes I look in the mirror
And wish I could make a request
Could I pray it away?
Am I shapeable clay?
Or is this as good as it gets?

Musgraves, rather than continuing to ask impersonal questions about the Architect who created the world, begins to ask about who created her. She questions her self-image, her worth, and even her agency.

Oftentimes our questions about the world and God are, on some level, questions about ourselves. We may find that, like Musgraves, many people who have questions about God in a general or impersonal way have another layer of questions—questions more painful and personal than they may feel comfortable sharing. Musgraves demonstrates this as she sings:

I thought that I was too broken
And maybe too hard to love

What starts as an innocent reflection on an apple leads us to a much deeper confession from Musgraves: the fear in her heart that she is broken and cannot receive love. In revealing what her deeper questions are, Musgraves shows her need for love. A surface-level understanding of her questions about creation and “the architect” does not give us an accurate idea of what questions she has about God.

As Christians, when we are able to come face to face with a person’s hopes and fears we are able to understand them and respond in love. With someone like Musgraves, to avoid the uncomfortable and “rebellious” questions she asks about God leaves us with generic questions about the design of the universe. We might be able to give strong answers to these questions, but in doing so we would miss the questions she is really asking.

Ending with a Question Mark
Musgraves does not tie up her song neatly by pointing her listeners back to God as a source of hope and love. Rather, she ends with a hanging question:

Does it happen by chance?
Is it all happenstance?
Do we have any say in this mess?
…This life that we make,
Is it random or fate?
Can I speak to the architect?
Is there an architect?

That Musgraves ends with a question may feel uncomfortable if we hope to have all of our questions about God resolved. In the same way, in our relationships we may feel uncomfortable or frustrated by friends or acquaintances who insist upon leaving their questions about God open. But for some, leaving open questions about God may be the avenue towards deeper understanding of, and commitment to, God.

Another way of saying this is that God’s timing is not our timing. We may feel, either for ourselves or for others, that we need to resolve our questions about God as quickly as possible—especially if they are personal questions related to personal suffering. But allowing space to leave questions open can be a practice in spiritual humility for believers (“I don’t have to know everything about how God works and I can still trust him”) and a lifeline of hope for unbelievers (“Even if I don’t understand or like God right now, maybe I can still figure this thing out”).

There are many people who earnestly sought answers to questions about God for a long time without getting to quick answers. One famous example is C.S. Lewis. Although Lewis is remembered as a Christian apologist and intellectual, he spent over half his life as an atheist or agnostic.2 Prior to his conversion, he had deep, long-standing relationships with many committed Christians who bore with him and his questions about God for years. Perhaps Lewis’ long, slow road to Christ even helped him gain a deeper commitment to God.

The Longing of the Human Heart
Musgraves’ lyrics in “The Architect” are significant because they point to something: the longing of the human heart to be known and loved. Her questioning reveals the truth that there is something in all people that points them towards seeking God, and sometimes it looks like having questions without easy or quick answers.

We might take issue with the fact that Musgraves is not a Christian and is leaving open some big questions about God. But we might instead take to heart that for many people, the road to a strong relationship with God is through hard questions. We should ask ourselves, Why is it that we get uncomfortable when either believers or unbelievers question God or our beliefs? Perhaps we could stand to do more earnest seeking and questioning of God than we are comfortable with.

Jesus never showed insecurity, impatience, or fear in the face of questions asked in good faith. In the Gospels, Jesus takes a posture of loving others, probing deep into their fears and desires. We often want to have our questions answered (or rush to make sure everyone else’s questions are answered for our own comfort). But Jesus does not give that example. He usually asked another question. Christ’s confidence and compassion in the face of questions likely make his listeners—today and when he walked the earth—more ready to respond to his invitation when he says, “Follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

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Jesse Childress

Jesse Childress has a deep appreciation for good food, philosophy, theology, and literature. He is the former Lead Content Editor and Writer for Summit Ministries' worldview blog Reflect, and spent a term studying at Francis Schaeffer's L'Abri Fellowship in Switzerland. Jesse has an MA in Cultural Apologetics from Houston Baptist University (now Houston Christian University), and began attending Denver Seminary in the fall of 2022 to study counseling, focusing particularly on the relationship between trauma and faith.