Part of the delight of spending time with my oldest grandson is that he takes nothing for granted.
“Bam, why bubble pop?”
“Because you stood on it.”
Well, good question. Why indeed, and our conversations have routinely run on in this vein of relentless curiosity. Now that he’s old enough to have moved from bubble questions to Bible questions, the flow stops at nothing, not necessarily because “Bam” comes up with anything like satisfactory answers, but because the seven-year-old mind keeps jumping the rails to new topics that require exploration.
Historically, the church has an uneasy relationship with curiosity, beginning with the Son of God himself receiving flack throughout his earthly ministry from the anti-questioning party in power at that time. Casey Tygrett invites Jesus’ present-day followers back into the spiritual practice of Becoming Curious, beckoning readers into the tension that holds opposing concepts in a space that waits for answers from all the multitude of possibilities.
Risk and Tension
Jesus, the whole and beautiful, jumped into the mess of a broken-down world and created tension galore, so it should not surprise us when our own risky ponderings lead us into uncomfortable territory. Jesus’ 12 learners were continually yanked into a right understanding of all they did not know by Jesus’ searchlight words:
“What do you want me to do for you?”
- Posed to James and John (Mark 10:35,36) when they were both gunning for the corner office;
- Posed to Bartimaeus (Mark 10:47-52) the blind beggar who made a ruckus and sought healing.
It’s startling to see the question posed in both settings (Had you noticed it before? I hadn’t.), but regardless of their initial intent in coming to Jesus, his unexpected question certainly let them know that they were in for more than they had expected.
The Critical Questions
Throughout the book, Casey Tygrett repeatedly argues for the utter necessity of curiosity for our spiritual formation. When Jesus probed the disciples (Mark 16:15) for their interpretation of his identity, it was certainly not because he was unclear on this point. The truth for 1st-century and 21st-century learners is that our answer to the question “Who do you say that I am?” defines the core of who we believe ourselves to be.
“What practices, habits, attitudes, and realities are now possible because he is who he is, and therefore I can be the same?” (69). With so many cultural—and, face it, “religious”—influences seeking to name us against our will, a right understanding of our identity in Christ allows us to cling to our “real, God-engraved name” (62).
Hearing the Why
Pressing into a spiritual practice of asking questions holds the door open for those in the following life to move beyond the basics of what and how questions and to live our way into the world of why. It’s our motives that shape who we are, and rather than pasting a list of legal requirements to our exterior selves, Jesus challenges believers in the practice of becoming:
Become the kind of person who can forgive beyond the seventy-times-seven.
Become a lover of the neighbors who act in an unworthy and annoying way.
Failure as Spiritual Formation
Curious living extends two challenges in the uncomfortable realm of failure:
- Learn to understand and embrace our failures as part of who we are.
- Repent of our old ways of seeing failure (104).
In his recorded dealings with the failure of biblical characters, God goes on record as One who meets murderers and cheaters and weaklings of all types with grace and forgiveness. What if part of the “all things” in Romans 8:28 that God promises to use for our good and for the fulfillment of his holy purposes includes (gulp) our failures?
Rituals, Routines, and Disciplines as Part of the Curious Life
Again, the important question in the following life (and in the life of my young grandson) is “Why?” If I’m doing something because I want to earn favor with God, or because I think I can control some outcome in my life by it, then it’s likely that a ritual or routine has become my master. God has ordained certain practices of godliness because he wants “to cut thick neural pathways in our minds that allow wisdom to flow continually” (127). We show up in front of an open Bible each day, not because it’s a lucky rabbit’s foot or a multi-vitamin and “my day always goes better if I start with Scripture,” but because this is the path of formation that makes me into the kind of person who is able to discern the voice of God from all the screaming banshees inside my head.
Tygrett invites readers to keep a Questions Journal as they read and provides prompts at the end of each chapter that prime the pump. I was surprised at what came bubbling to the surface as I scribbled questions into my notes, and I invite you to start reading Jesus’ biblical questions with a bit more involvement. What if you were face to face with him over coffee, and he asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” What comes to mind first?
As we persist in our asking and in our listening, may we find that our questions become bolder and that we begin searching to know him rather than merely to know about him. The spiritual practice of becoming curious is God’s gift to his people, and he has equipped our souls to take the shape of an explorer into the deep things that will change our way of seeing the world. Are we curious enough to follow him there?
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Michelle, thank you for this thoughtful review. I love the idea of seeing our failures in a new light. And I think I may start a Questions journal!
I come back to the questions page in my journal on the reg’lar–sometimes to add something new, sometimes to stare hard at the long list and acknowledge that I am still mortal and SO limited in my ability to really KNOW. I suppose that’s not a bad spiritual practice after all.
Michele, I love the questions children come up with as they always spark my own curiosity. In 2015, I did a 31 Days of looking at the questions Jesus asked. It may be time to revisit those questions. Questions can become the avenue to knowing Him more deeply. I love the thought of a questions journal.
Recently I saw several on Twitter sharing data about the number of questions Jesus asked (plenty, but I never retain numbers) and the number he answered (almost none). No wonder the religious elite were so uncomfortable with him!
Michele, It’s been interesting mulling over your words as they came on the heels of reading a post exploring the question: “Did God really say…” ( by Rebekah Matt) I think maybe it matters where our own questions are coming from. Are they grounded in a child-like faith that simply overflows with wonder and addresses its maker for the answers. Or, is our questioning that of a rebellious adolescent rumbling up from doubt, suspicion and an underlying doubt in God’s goodness or rightness? One kind of heart will lead us to Him. The other may well open us to follow our enemy’s cunningly devised questions into full-on rebellion.
I love that Jesus asked so many questions. He knew how to plumb the depths of hearts and help us see what is really there. May He guide us all in our questionings for His glory and our refinement into His image( : I also love that He has all the answers I need! And invites me to Ask! Thanks for this thought provoking review. Oh, and I’m reflecting too on failure as part of who I am, needing a healthier understanding of failure and grace…
You’ve made an important point, particularly in this present era of deconstruction. I think God welcomes the questions that come from a true desire to KNOW him.
And I am with you in the work of knitting together failure and grace…