“But HOW is the sky blue, Mama?”
She had been asking the question the entire drive to school. Not being a meteorologist, I tried my best to explain. But I was coming up short, for sure, and she was persistent in her questions. In the end, I simply said, “I don’t know,” and tried to distract her with the cars out of her window. For the moment, she was placated, if not satisfied. I breathed a sigh of relief.
We all can agree that kids ask a lot of questions. We joke that a three-year-old’s favorite word is “why” or “how.” After a few feeble attempts to answer, we try to shut down the questions with an “I don’t know,” but they too are often unrelenting in their seeking of an answer. In the end, we become frustrated by the incessant questioning.
As I consider all of my daughter’s questions and, unfortunately, my impatience and eagerness for quiet in the car, a “why” question of my own pops into my mind: “Why do we give up asking questions?” “When is it that we become content with the ‘I don’t know,’ or appeased by someone simply telling us an answer (whether right or wrong)?”
In an age in which “answers” are merely a Google search away, we’ve also lost the inquisitiveness that is so apparent in children. In other words, our critical thinking skills have languished. For children, finding an answer is more about the chase, the seeking to find themselves and to make sense of a great, big world—and they do so by asking lots (LOTS) of questions.
As adults, we too often seek easy, quick answers—even for life’s big questions. When it comes to questions of the Christian faith—of life, death, and everything in between—we treat the Bible as its own sort of search engine, in which any query can be answered with one Scripture reference.
Rather than giving us fast, easy answers, the Bible models for us the power of questions.
We find questions throughout the Bible. In fact, Jesus asks more questions than he answers! Consider his response to the legal expert in Luke 10:25–37, who asked “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus’s response is textbook Socratic method! He responds with a question, and the dialogue continues; Jesus offers a story of a kind and generous Samaritan in response to another question (“And who is my neighbor?”), and asks a final question, encouraging the legal expert to discover the answer for himself.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus’s first words are in the form of a question: “What are you looking for?” (1:38). His first post-resurrection words are also questions: “Why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” (20:15).
Jesus’s questions invite us to participate in the figuring out of a faithful life. Rather than simply telling us who to love or how to care for the world, Jesus’s questions create space for us to partner and participate in God’s kingdom in a way that roots faith and obedience in our hearts and minds.
As you can see, questions are central to Jesus’s life and ministry. God’s questions for us are equally penetrable and, at the same time, invitational. In Genesis 3:8, God asks the man and woman, “Where are you?” Hiding because of their disobedience, God draws them out of their hiding and back into relationship. God’s question among the heavenly counsel, “Whom shall I send?,” spurs Isaiah into a faithful life of prophetic ministry (Isa 6:8).
The Bible models for us how questions can reveal, teach, and transform us. The questions we find in the Bible invite us in—into God’s story, into a life of faith and transformation, into a living faith. If the questions in the Bible tell us anything, it’s that there are no easy answers. What’s more, the questions just might change your life: “What are you looking for?” “Whom are you looking for?” “Who is my neighbor?” “Whom shall I send?”
So, let’s ask questions. Let’s search for and through our questions.
Let me be clear: I do not believe that asking questions is doubting; having questions does not mean we lack faith.
Asking questions, searching for questions, is an act of faith. The ancient Christian theologian Anselm lived by the motto, “Faith seeking understanding.” In other words, our faith and love of God should always seek a deeper understanding of God.
An active faith seeks—seeks questions, seeks invitation and relationship. Questions can bring us into the story of God in transformational ways.
One of my favorite Bible storytelling methods is Godly Play, an interactive technique that uses beautiful and tangible visuals to tell the biblical stories (primarily) to children. Following the telling of the story, the storyteller asks a series of “wondering” questions: “I wonder what was your favorite part of the story?”; “I wonder how X felt when Y happened?”; “I wonder if you’ve ever felt like X?” “I wonder where you are in this story?”
Like Jesus’s and God’s questions, these wondering questions invite us in, bringing us closer to our stories of faith and to God. There are no easy answers in Godly Play—only open questions.
Children embrace questions. Like my daughter, they ask them a lot! Questions help them make sense of the world. Through questions, they participate in the world, seeking understanding.
May we too find a deep(er) faith in our seeking, and may we be emboldened to keep asking questions.
* This is the first of two blog posts entitled “Living Faith, Living Word,” part of an effort to promote a new focus at CBFVA on lay leadership training. Beginning in January 2022, CBFVA will offer two six-week courses each year for lay leaders! The courses will provide lay leaders around the state with opportunities to grow in faith and understanding of the Bible and Christian thought and history so as to empower and engender transformational and spiritually- and Scripturally- informed leadership. Stay tuned for more information….