On asking the wrong questions

by Anna Blanch on March 11, 2013

“Thinking itself is a spiritual activity” – Abraham Kuyper

If you’re around little children, especially those around 3 or 4, then you’d be pretty used to the questions: why? what’s that?

So what happens to us? At what point do we become rubbish at asking questions. Does being told ‘because’ finally strangle the curiosity? When and why do we become afraid? Or if not afraid, are we simply too proud to acknowledge we don’t get it, because we think we should ‘get what’s going on’?

I think we can often be like those listening to Jesus and being afraid to throw our hand up and say “I don’t understand!”:

But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him” – Mark 9:32

I’ve been thinking lately about being willing, open,and curious enough to ask difficult questions.

The kind of questions i’m talking about are those questions that make you a little uncomfortable, the kind of questions that probe ‘why do we do it this way’ or ask ‘why do i believe that’ or ‘on what basis do i think this or that is true.’  There’s a curiosity and a willingness to realise that what you might find will have to result in a shifting of what you consider to be true. In other words you have to be flexible about changing your mind, about seeking Truth as a way of being.

We all have touchstones, things we hold onto as truths – even if this truth is that everything is relative and changeable – but it is less usual to think through the foundational assumptions that underpin the actions and beliefs we live on the basis of each day.

This post from Gill Gamble of Gillian Gamble: Illustration and Photography about Looking for Truth is inspiring me this morning to allow myself to more childlike in my questioning and seeking! It’s a lovely read with a serious message!

What if you’re also someone who’s supposed to know more? Do we hang back from asking the tough questions?

Western cultures perpetuate the standard operating principle that intelligence is equated is knowing stuff, but maybe it should be equated with an eager willingness to learn: A posture of curiousity, and an attitude of lifelong learning.

There is joy in the idea that we always have the capacity to play among creation, and to dance blithely. To learn new things purely out of curiousity – to joyfully and humbly be a ‘learner.’

One of my concerns if that faith and doubt are often conceived of as opposites, but doubt and questioning is not the concern as much as wilful ignorance.

Maybe in re-learning how to question, how to voice those questions within our souls we need our sense of self-identities to be put aside, and our egos may need to die a quick death. But the idea of putting aside self-importance and adult status may not be as simple as it sounds, if it sounds simple at all.

All I can say is that at some point (in church as in life), innocence and vulnerability are no longer valued, and if there is anything left it is mere tatters. And this is a great shame. It may because of the value we place on being ‘legitimate’ in the eyes of others.

But this too is not a simple matter. It is not easy to remain always the questioner, the learner, the innocent child-like creature desiring truth. For one, we are called to grow and mature in our faith, and when ready to seek ‘meaty’ things – Paul describes it like growing from taking milk to eating solids. But beyond this, I think we all struggle with the sense of being of no importance – or maybe it is just the insecurity in my own heart that leads me to acknowledge that I struggle when i feel incompetent, when i’m the newbie with no roadmap of what ‘having a handle on it all’ really means.

So, I’m left with some really big question: How do I feel about being of no importance?

Yet in that answer, recognising that I am a human being of full and complete importance to God.

It’s a paradox.

What does it look like to come to Christ as a little child?

How do we avoid being trampled by the world we live in as we approach God will an open and innocent heart?

I think we should ask questions more.

Difficult ones. Joyful ones.

The wrong ones and the right ones.

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