The other day, one of my coworkers shared an article called “The Art of Powerful Questions.” Here’s an excerpt I really liked:
Questions open the door to dialogue and discovery. They are an invitation to creativity and breakthrough thinking. Questions can lead to movement and action on key issues; by generating creative insights, they can ignite change.
If asking good questions is so critical, why don’t most of us spend more of our time and energy on discovering and framing them? One reason may be that much of Western culture, and North American society in particular, focuses on having the “right answer” rather than discovering the “right question.”
Our educational system focuses more on memorization and rote answers than on the art of seeking new possibilities. We are rarely asked to discover compelling questions, nor are we taught why we should ask such questions in the first place. Quizzes, examinations, and aptitude tests all reinforce the value of correct answers. Is it any wonder that most of us are uncomfortable with not knowing?
Which got me thinking…
What if asking questions is the vital-yet-missing element of our prayers and our interactions with the scriptures? Have you ever noticed just how many people in the Bible question God? Not ordinary people asking polite questions, either… but the so-called heroes of the faith asking scandalizing questions like, “My God, why have you forsaken me?”
What if asking questions is worthwhile not just for the sake of finding answers? What if sometimes there are no answers? What if our quest for these elusive answers will end up like Job’s? Did you ever notice how in his story, when God shows up at last, he asks Job lots of rhetorical questions, then leaves—without ever answering Job’s question, why?
What if Jesus appreciated better than anyone the value of asking questions? Why is it that in the Gospels, more often than not his answer to a question is—annoyingly—a question? Conrad Gempf once pointed out that Jesus asks 50 different questions in the book of Mark alone (which records just 67 conversations).
What if followers of Jesus are people who never stop asking, never stop wondering, never stop exploring? The disciples asked Jesus plenty of questions—dumb questions, not-so-dumb questions…. Either way, they kept on asking, right up to the moment Jesus caught a ride back to heaven (Acts 1:6).
What if we’ve made an idol out of having all the right answers? Are we addicted to black-and-white, either-or thinking? And does this get in the way of knowing God?
What if God is more interested in followers who ask the right questions than those who have all the answers? Maybe this is why asking good questions—not having good answers—was the foundation of the Jewish educational experience. Scientist Isidor Isaac Rabi once said when he came home from school each day, his Jewish mother never asked, “What did you learn today?” Instead she wanted to know, “Did you ask any good questions today?” What if God delights in a good, honest question?
What if that’s the difference between understanding faith as a destination and seeing it as a journey, as a process of exploration and discovery? Maybe that’s why the writers of the Bible loved using “walk” as a metaphor for our relationship with God.