The Spiritual Practice of Curiosity

Part of the delight of spending time with my tiny grandson is that he takes nothing for granted.
Nothing.
“Bam, why bubble pop?”
“Because you stood on it.”
“Why?”
Well, good question.  Why indeed, but our conversations routinely run on in this vein of relentless curiosity.  They move forward not because “Bam” comes up with anything like satisfactory answers, but because the two-year-old mind has jumped the rails to a new topic.

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’ twelve “learners” were continually yanked into a right understanding of all they did not know by Jesus’ search-light words:

“What do you want me to do for you?”  

  • Posed to James and John (Mark 10:35,36) when they were 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 for 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?”

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.”

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 time 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:

  1.  Learn to understand and embrace our failures as part of who we are;
  2. Repent of our old ways of seeing failure.

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 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.”  We show up in front of an open Bible each day, not because it’s a lucky rabbit’s foot and “my day always goes better if I start with Scripture” like a multi-vitamin, 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.

Casey 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?

This book was provided by the IVP Books, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Be watching for details about an upcoming reading group that invites you to read (or re-read!) and discuss Wendell Berry’s classic work of literary fiction, Jayber Crow.  The discussion will begin on Thursday, September 7th.  A flawed and curmudgeonly bachelor barber, Jayber’s homely wisdom has inspired me to think more deeply about what I believe.  Here’s a thought from his ramblings on prayer:

“I prayed the terrible prayer: ‘Thy will be done.’ Having so prayed, I prayed for strength.”

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Published by

Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for over 25 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

53 thoughts on “The Spiritual Practice of Curiosity”

  1. Michele,

    Your review raises heavy questions this morning — but in a good way. I am reminded of the dangers that can come when our time with God is driven by legalism and routine rather than a desire to know Him and what He asks of us.

    At the end of the day my desire is for intimacy with Jesus – maintaining this focus is not always easy though. Thank you for the DEEP thoughts this morning!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Just a friendly warning – be careful what you ask. Jesus told His budding disciples there were mysteries He could tell them but He knew they wouldn’t understand. Everything has a price to be paid. Once you are truly committed to dive into the depths of this kind of comprehension there is no going back. Those who have gone there, like A.W. Tozer and Austin T-Sparks often spoke of this peculiar conundrum and warned that the earnest seeker will garner answers that cannot be shared and is then set apart and on a lonely road burdened with knowledge that cannot be unknown.

    Just posting this is a risk wherein I must weigh the potential cost. It is truly a dilemma.

    https://www.crossroad.to/Bible_studies/sermons/devotions/loneliness.htm

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great and helpful thoughts as usual. I’m re-reading Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry for an upcoming discussion group, and this quote comes to mind, a conversation with the headmaster that got the main character kicked out of Bible school:
      “You have been given questions to which you cannot be given answers. You will have to live them out and perhaps a little at a time.”
      “How long is it going to take?”
      “I don’t know. As long as you live perhaps.”
      “That could be a long time.”
      “I will tell you a mystery,” he said. “It may take longer.”

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  3. Oh that I would also be “the kind of person who is able to discern the voice of God from all the screaming banshees inside my head.” Thanks for this challenge today, Michele!

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  4. Dear Sister in Christ, you continue to bless me with your fearlessness and candor, never backing down from the challenges of the following life. Failures and rituals, my best hope is to see them through the eyes of Jesus, not my own, and certainly not of the banshees. Blessings!

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  5. I always love the spiritual insight and deepness I find here, Michele. Thank you.
    This is so true: “Our answer to the question “Who do you say that I am?” defines the core of who we believe ourselves to be.”
    And I’m in the position of having to forgive 70 x 7 (Is that it???) times this week and also draw some boundaries. Keep loving. It’s so hard, and I’m needing grace, so some of these thoughts helped me. 🙂

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  6. Michele,
    I like how she talks about discerning the voice of God from all the screaming banshees inside my head. That’s what it feels like sometimes. I often thought I was not a very good Christian because I often had doubts and questions. I have since come to realize that it’s through our questioning and asking, “Why”, that we invite God to reveal more of Himself and in turn draw closer to Him. I believe that God honors our quest to get to know Him more and to pursue Him with childlike curiosity. Great reminder of these premises and I feel like I’m not alone….
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

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    1. We’re uncomfortable sometimes with questions, and even impatient with the small voices of children when they probe and push us into really thinking about the “why.” I loved this book’s invitation to pursue the questions of Jesus — at least as far as we’re able. Thanks for reading, Bev.

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  7. I love this! Is asking WHY? not a child’s way of ‘inclining your heart to understanding’ (Pr.2:2) Is is so characteristic of young children that likely it is a symptom of humility and one blessed by Jesus. I remember so clearly being given ‘permission’ to ask questions about the Biblical text. In seventh grade we had a Bible curriculum, really a very simple tool, that required you to ask questions about the text as the beginning of studying it. It was based on the idea, I suppose, that there’s nothing like curiousity to inspire learning. It was a challenge for me at first; I needed the permission to wonder…. But a joy thereafter!

    I love that question of Jesus’, and no, I hadn’t recognized it was in two places. Questions like that make you think. What do I most want?
    My only caution about the WHY question is that there is also a petulant (rebellious) WHY that insists on answers where God is not offering them. There are things we will not understand this side of eternity but all that we need to know He reveals…
    “The LORD our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that he has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions.” [Deu 29:29 NLT]

    Thank-you Michele for digesting this book on our behalf and cheering us on to ask with childlike wonder–acknowledging our ignorance that God might fill us with wisdom. Good words!

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    1. It’s amazing that you still remember that 7th grade experience, so it must have made an impact.
      And I have been guilty of that petulant why, so it was helpful for me to read about an appropriate and God-honoring why. And when I read something like the connection between those two scenarios with the same question being asked, I wonder how I have read the Bible for all these decades and missed such an obvious parallel.

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      1. Such is the wonder of a LIVING and ACTIVE Word. We never finish plumbing its depths or mining its gems. I”m glad you digging and bringing to light such good truth!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I heard about this book earlier this year and it’s on my list of books I want to read so it’s great to hear some more about it. I think curiosity and asking questions are so important for growing in faith, and Jesus’ questions are the best!

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  9. you’ve given us some food for thought here. God put that characteristic of curiosity into us as He created us – I, too, have grandchildren who ask “Why?” and remember how often my own children asked! It takes courage, sometimes, to ask the “Why” and I trust that the Lord will give the answers I need when He know I am ready and need to hear them.

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  10. wow – what a great discipline. during my years of doubt, a favorite prof challenged me quite off the cuff (and it made all the difference): “If God isn’t big enough for your questions, Sue, then He isn’t a big enough God, is He?” This should be required reading for all college students. Thanks, Michele. (can’t wait til you review my book although it might be longer than the actual book itself – easy reading as I’m a simple writer. (: )

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    1. I’m looking forward to your book, Sue. And isn’t it funny that the most offhand comments end up being the ones that shape us — and the 5 minute mini-sermons run off our brains like butter on teflon. I try to remember this with my kids, but I do go on — sometimes.

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  11. “God has ordained certain practices of godliness because He wants “to cut thick neural pathways in our minds that allow wisdom to flow continually.” Loved this, Michele. I’ve been reading about habits & neural pathways over the past couple of months. So good to hear it from another source.

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    1. This was important for me to remember, because I resist routine, but if anyone needs those “thick neural pathways that allow wisdom to flow,” it’s this flibbertigibbet! Glad that the review provided you with some further material on this topic.

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  12. This is a thought provoking review for sure, Michele. This past week we were on vacation. As we drove one day, I just typed down thoughts as they came to me as I took in the beauty around me. I am so grateful our God invites us into His Word so that we can know Him. He invites our curiosity and our questions, for it is in the answers we inch closer to Him. May I never lose the wonder of His Word.

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  13. I ALWAYS want my kids to feel free to ask why about anything and everything including their faith. I want them to see me do that…to question until I make the knowledge and assurance my own. We need that freedom and God wants it of us. P.S. I love that you are called Bam.

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  14. “Thy will be done” is a common prayer in AA. Amazing to me the daily surrender of those living in recovery. I confess I’m more curious now than in my younger years. I’m taking this as a gift. Another intriguing book you’ve brought to us.

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    1. Me, too, Debby! I feel as if I lived my childhood and early 20’s in a haze, but I’m wide awake now, and there is so much to see and catch up on in this past 30-ish years. So glad that you are also drinking it all in!

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  15. Wow Michele, You should write a book on all the lessons you articulated from this book. You brought out some amazing points. About how Jesus questioned them – nope, I had never seen that (and did you see John and James asked them to give them whatever they asked for?!!) Also great lesson on embracing our failures. I’m not quite there. Still battling condemnation – but you are right that we can’t let the world define us, but Christ.
    I remember, when my kids were little, James Dobson would say there is a natural curiosity in children that dies as they grow up. He was saddened by that and speculated why. I remember that from time to time when I see the wonder in children’s eyes and hearts. Love it!!!

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    1. You’d love Casey’s book — and I had to really pick and choose what I emphasized to keep the review within readable length. I was surprised at how many different aspects of life (Sabbath especially!) that curiosity touches on.

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  16. This book sounds wonderful and yet so challenging! I’m particularly challenged by this quote: “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?” Gulping right along with you!!!

    Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday on Mommynificent.com this week!
    Tina

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Becoming Curious sounds like a fascinating book, Michele! It’s definitely one to enhance our faith journeys. Thank you so much for sharing it, and for being a part of Hearth and Soul. Hope you will visit again this week! Have a lovely week ahead.

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  18. Great post. That was a great explanation of the role of curiosity for those who desire to reach to higher levels of Enlightenment like Jesus did.

    Many prefer to sit complacently and practice without making effort to become wiser in order to get closer to the Grace of God.

    Liked by 1 person

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