How often have you been in a classroom, Sunday school room, or even a court room? One room might feel a whole lot like the other depending on the questions asked. Questions carry with them possibilities in these places and in general. The whole concept of a question is a request to know information. Sometimes though, statements and accusations carrying shame parade as questions. The questions we ask can often answer much more about who we are than they do about the one being asked. Questions can open windows to let cool, fresh air into hidden places and they can also slam a cell door full of shame and regret so fast it’d make your head spin. The questions we ask are key to the answers we get.
Have you ever been asked a question that stuck with you? For better or worse, questions can shape our days, our weeks and even our lives.
“Who do you think you are?”
“Can I tell you about a love so powerful, it is willing to die in your place?”
“Will you marry me?”
The way we ask, can change the answer and invite real dialogue rather than a lecture. Some examples of this in my own life look like…
“What is prayer like for you?” instead of “Have you been doing a quiet time every day?”
Questions easily answered with “yes” or “no” don’t always cultivate real conversations.
“Would you tell me what it’s like when you read the Word?” is a lot different than “Did you read the Bible today?”
One is about the process of how the Word can never return void, is living and active and ready to move in our hearts and lives. The other is a lot more like a check-list that supports the “good girl”. If she can answer with a simple “yes” and move on, then all is right with the world. The first is more about what the Word is doing in us than it is about us at all. When I am asked the former, I am invited into a deeper discussion where grace is found. When I am I asked the latter, I am told via question that I should continue to try harder, be better and do more.
Some questions I have been asked that shaped my life and the way I view discipleship, friendship and relationships in general are…
- Where is your worth coming from? Who? What?
- Where/when are you most or least aware of His presence?
- What are you placing your trust in most?
- Has your view of who God is changed because of ______?
- What do you desire now more than anything else?
These questions for me, were steeped in grace and weren’t ever graded on a scale of “right or wrong”. The only thing that would’ve made them wrong was if they were answered perfunctorily or dishonestly.
Looking at the questions Christ asked while on earth, they often were answered with another question because they weren’t always “normal”. Sometimes they were so simple and beautiful they seemed like trick questions.
What do you want me to do for you? :: Matthew 20:32
Why are you so afraid? :: Mark 4:40
Who do you say that I am? :: Mark 8:29
If you are not able to do this small thing, why are you anxious about the rest? :: Luke 12:26
Why are you crying? Whom are you seeking? :: John 20:15
Do you love me? :: John 21:17
Through the questions of Christ recorded in scripture, we don’t see one where he asked people “How is your prayer life?” or “Are you plugged into a synagogue?”. Really, none of his teaching or the questions he asked seemed to assess spiritual performance. In fact, he was harshest with the spiritual performers of the day. His questions are pointing to desire, to identity, these root issues where sin can grow largest or is cut off at the quick. His questions point to healing and meeting the deepest needs of humanity. They center on His ability to provide life and holiness rather than on our ability to get ourselves together and try harder.
Our Savior asks us, “Do you want to be made well?” :: John 5:6
The girl who is only asked the questions with simple “yes or no”, right or wrong, black and white answers is usually the girl who is told to be “an example”. She may start to believe that “examples” don’t mess up, don’t share their problems (if they have any because “God never gives us more than we can handle, right?”..Ugh) and people who are “examples” do NOT burden others. She may grow into believing she needs to have it all together and be a few steps ahead in order to help others. She will probably have a handle on her behaviors, but is at the mercy of others’ affirmations. Her reputation may be squeaky clean, but scratch the shiny veneer of the external and you’ll find fear, loneliness and bitterness inside. She can be a “good example”, a person people look up to, but she’ll be at a loss on how to be a real friend-someone people can relate to.
“BUT! What about ‘be holy as I am holy’?! WE are told to be lights in the darkness!”
You’re absolutely right. We are called to be light and we are called to be holy. She has a friend who is free. Her Light is the Light that shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it. She is aware of how deeply in need of His holiness she is. He became holiness for her when He was made to be sin on her behalf and gained victory over sin in her stead. She owns her mistakes; she feels the weight of her sin and knows where to take her questions that don’t have easy answers.
Her friend was asked better questions. Through those questions, she learned how freeing it is to know it’s not her job to fix people, including herself. Her responsibility is to be a disciple who is learning how to work alongside the Spirit of God as He continues to make disciples. This has everything to do with following the example Christ laid for us. He didn’t offer spiritual health assessments and check boxes. He made room for questions, offered grace and truth as He healed people from the heart outward. Our hearts are the first things that need changed and the rest follows.
Put first things first and we get second things thrown in:
put second things first and we lose both first and second things.
:: C.S. Lewis wrote to Dom Bede Griffiths (April 23, 1951) ::
Just a little caveat on the recent questions that drove this post if you don’t mind…
Growing up in church, loving people who love the Lord have been ever-present in my life. As a young woman, people spoke into my life and the lives of my friends. One question asked of us often was, “How are you preparing for marriage?”
My earliest memory of this was about 12 or 13. So my answer would’ve been, “I’m not. I’m lucky to be prepared for my math test next week, if I’m honest.” This well-intentioned question surfaced regularly throughout high school and into college. Meanwhile, we saw a rise in the idolization of marriage. (Maybe there’s a correlation there? Maybe not?) A study by the Barna Group identified females age 18-30 leaving the church in large numbers. The common factor among those young women? They’re unmarried. Maybe they were preparing, doing all the “right things” for the marriage that hasn’t happened and got disillusioned. Maybe they got tired of people asking that question. Who knows? I can say for certain I’ve never asked that question of anyone. I believe marriage is an amazing gift from God to show us in the most tangible way what His love for His Church looks like. I can also say I believe eternal, abundant life with God starting at my salvation is the most amazing gift…married or single.
I can tell you I also had/have mentors in my life who love me, love the Lord and who ASK BETTER QUESTIONS. Such as, “How has God prepared you for the works He prepared for you since before the foundation of the world? How are you seeing Him walk with you in those?”
Lastly, I was in a court room listening to all manner of questions directed at this precious middle school girl who is courageous and caring despite the atrocious things done to her as a child of single digits. The opposing lawyer was asking some questions we all hated. The one that stuck with me was, “What were you wearing?”
She was 10.
It might just be me, but I don’t think what she was wearing is pertinent information. I realize that this man was on the opposing council and yet, that doesn’t excuse his choice of inquiry here. She answered saying, something about shorts and a t-shift and I’ll have you know a third of the jury decided the accused wasn’t guilty that day. This kind of thing is happening more than once in the county I was raised in. This an example of why Jesus asks us, “Do you want to be made well?”.
The question she was asked after it was all over came from someone who loves her, believes her and values her answers. “You were SO brave. Are you ready to go home now?”
For the love….
LET’S ASK BETTER QUESTIONS.