It happened again last month. I was in a Bible study and the leader was posing some challenging questions about how to apply the concepts presented in that week’s lesson – how to choose joy in our daily lives and how to face real struggles along the way. “Trust God,” one person said. “You have to pray,” said another. The conversation faltered and we went on to another topic.
Jesus didn’t require these pat answers. In fact, he discouraged them, challenging the skeptical and searching people he encountered with profound conversations about life, death, rebirth, generosity, pride, and love.
“Who do you say I am?” he asked Peter.
“Can you add an hour to your life by worrying about it?” he asked the crowds.
“Where is your faith?” “Why are you sleeping?” “Do you believe this?” “Do you realize what I have done?” “Do you love me?”
Jesus taught by asking questions and he welcomed questions from others. He still invites us to question him, ourselves, and our faith, and I’m excited that my friend Casey explores what this can mean for us in his book “Becoming Curious: A Spiritual Practice of Asking Questions.” It released yesterday (here, where it’s already sold out! here! And here!) and he’s on the blog today to tell us more:
Where did this book come from? What drove you to want to write it?
I wish I had some sort of romantic, “Thus saith the Lord” kind of moment but the best I can say it is this book was a pseudo-dare. I heard an interview with a writing coach that said if you write a certain number of words a day, after 30 days you’ll have enough for the content of the book.
So I took that challenge.
Honestly I had been blogging for years, written articles here and there, but the idea of a book was well beyond what I could imagine. After writing about 1500-2000 words a day for a week or two, I began to see something emerge. The idea of questions – something that I loved, just to poke existing ideas and ask the questions that most people don’t want to ask – started to not only sound appealing but also healthy and helpful to the spiritual life in Christ that I had been teaching and living for the last two decades.
The book is really the extension of my desire to help people who ask questions recover the beauty of what that curiosity could do to help deepen and strengthen our lives as we follow Jesus.
You talk about the fact that curiosity is a childlike thing – what does that look like for “grown-ups” who have real jobs, real relationships, and real responsibilities?
Part of it means that we need to redefine what it means to be “grown up” – we’ve assumed that something childlike such as curiosity doesn’t really fit with “adult” life. We have more responsibilities, sure, and we’ve picked up the idea that kids have the luxury of curiosity, but we need the functionality of certainty. The problem is that certainty moves. The three easy steps to a better marriage flame out at step one, the job advancement strategy blows up, the plan to grow spiritually by ingesting as much information as we can leaves us bloated and Pharisaical.
Curiosity is that thing that allows us to navigate life – kids and adults – and for those of us who want to live in the Kingdom that Jesus teaches, we have to acknowledge that we have no clue what that means and that it’s so foreign to the way we have been taught to live that perhaps the best way to engage it is to become like a curious child again. Maybe there aren’t three easy steps to anything but there are two or three critical questions that Jesus poses and that we can bring into our own life to move forward.
If someone wanted to know what the heart of the book is, what would you say? What’s your elevator pitch for this book?
Faith has the reputation of requiring the right answers or else. However, Jesus had three years to change the world and he engaged with nearly 183 questions. Perhaps that means the greatest obstacle to our spiritual growth is not having the right answers but asking more and better questions. How do we regain a practice and posture of asking good questions?
You include an exercise at the end of each chapter where people can “re-learn” how to be curious. Why is that important?
Simply put, it’s rehabilitation. When a part of our body is wounded or weakened by lack of use, we go to rehab. We re-learn how to use what has been left neglected or what has been injured. At the same time, while writing this I did realize that some people have experienced pain at the hands of someone who took advantage of their curiosity and I can’t imagine how that feels. That’s a place of prayer for me.
The exercises should be seen as a laboratory or practice field – a place to process curiosity in a relatively safe and personal space. Most of the chapters are oriented towards the person, but eventually the content will move towards a larger community and when that happens my prayer is that people will have practiced curiosity to the point where they are comfortable with it, like an old friend who is rich in conversation.
If YOU’RE curious to learn more, check out the book here. And if you’re trying to find a healthy rhythm to your everyday life, subscribe to Casey’s blog to receive a free copy of his E-book “The Jesus Rhythm: Finding a Life of Advance and Retreat” as well as his weekly blog “Becoming.”