Curiosity Killed the Cat, but Will it Kill my Soul? Asking Questions of Our Faith
I am a very curious person. As I sit in the sun-room on this freezing-cold winter day, I am watching the birds at the feeder outside. To my delight “Woody Woodpecker” shows up and I am filled with wonder. I ask myself, “Is Woody really a boy or is the bird a girl? Which seeds does he or she like best? Why does he or she continually shift around looking in all directions?”
I’m an older adult whose curiosity remains alive and active, which is probably a rarity. Maybe it is because I’ve worked with children all of my life. I delight in watching them have moments of awe and wonder. How can I not join in?
In a recent Soul Care meeting, our assistant editor laid out some books on the table for us to consider reviewing for our blog. Naturally, my curious self was led to reach right out and grab the book Becoming Curious: A Spiritual Practice of Asking Questions by Casey Tygrett.
In the opening chapter, Tygrett throws out this question, “What if Jesus actually asked us to grow and deepen our curiosity, more than our certainty or knowledge of facts and data?” Later he writes, “If we see anything in Jesus, it is both the permission and the invitation to bring our questions and uncertainties to him—to sit with them together, to meditate and examine the presence of the One who loves and holds us up.”
In chapter 10, Tygrett mentions an idea (see below) that struck him from Ronald Rolheiser’s book, Holy Longing. (Since I get emails from Rolheiser’s blog, I am familiar with his theological leanings and this triggered my curiosity yet again. The next thing I knew, I was off into yet another book. Curious people often find themselves traveling random bunny trails.)
In chapter 7 of Holy Longing, Rolheiser’s writes, “No philosophy of life, no anthropology, no psychology, and, a fortiori, no spirituality can pretend to be mature without grappling with the timeless, haunting questions of suffering and death.” As a result of my curiosity, I found that Tygrett and Rolheiser intersected with my experience as a counselor. Let me explain.
Since I am a pastoral counselor and spiritual director, I sit with dear folks every week who are often afraid to ask God the hard questions or to reveal their suppressed discontent or disdain for God. My clients tend to censor the their most accusing thoughts and questions of God when it pertains to dealing with loss.
Currently, I am walking beside a widow whose husband died of a terminal illness. She has no idea how she will go on with her beloved companion no longer at her side. Yet, she is brave enough to ask the hard questions: “What did I do to deserve this? Is God punishing me?” Old Testament texts are often used to justify her thoughts. For example, she has said, “God punishes and even kills those who are unrighteous. He is a God of judgment and wrath.” Simply raising these honest heart wrenching questions often leaves people with guilt and shame for questioning God.
I, too, struggle like this widow with the hard questions such as the ones that 2 Samuel 12 poses. This is the story of King David and Bathsheba conceiving a son. Recall that their union was adulterous and that David had Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, killed to cover up the fact that he was the father of this child. After this, Nathan, the prophet, went to David, confronted him about his actions, and predicted their consequences.
After Nathan had gone home, the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill. David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth on the ground. The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them.
Notice that the text says, “the Lord struck down the child.” Now wait a minute! Why didn’t God strike down David? He is the one who sinned; not his child! Why would God intentionally kill a baby who was an innocent bystander? Is this the same God I know in Jesus? Now these are questions to grapple with!
So, I start pondering. Does “struck down” really mean like a lightning bolt type of experience? Zap! God took the child out. Could it mean that God had a bigger plan and knew that the life of an illegitimate child would be very difficult? Was David so important to Jesus’s lineage that he was spared and not the child? Maybe it was common for children to die young and this was interpreted as God’s judgment against David’s actions?
I tend to lean into the latter explanation since my theology is one of Jesus loving the little children. I believe illness and death are the work of Satan and that God weeps at every death. But, do I need to really have an answer to this question to continue on my faith journey?
In the introduction to Becoming Curious, Tygrett recalls, “As I began to engage my own curiosity in following Jesus, I encountered questions in myself, my friends, and our community that I could not answer. I found instead that the deep yearning on my spirit was to actually leave them unanswered.”
So, do I know why children die or do I even know the answers to a multitude of faith questions? No. I don’t. But I do believe that grappling with these questions leads us deeper into a conversation with our Creator and into the deep trust that He is in control and I don’t have to have all of the answers.
I think my bunny trail is exactly what Tygrett is suggesting in his book. He invites us to ask questions about our lives and the Word by having us question areas of our lives, such as, our identity, motivations, love, failures, rituals, forgiveness, others, and change. Accordingly, each chapter ends with thought provoking questions along these lines to help readers dig deeper.
In chapter 5 Tygrett writes, “The process of becoming curious is the movement away from simply living by what and how, and moving into the beautifully ambiguous and possibility-laden world of God’s why and all that comes with it. What would it look like for us to live every moment of every day simply intoxicated by God’s why?”
Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18: 3-4). Today put on new eyes. See life in real color—paradoxes and pain, but also joy and peace. Ask questions that are more mundane and those that pose challenges. Wrestle with truth and come out on the other side with a stronger faith.