I remember so well how much I disliked sitting in a classroom with the anticipation of the teacher asking me a question. I tried to almost make myself disappear so I would not be seen or called upon to answer. Later, as a teacher, I realized how typical that could be as well as how futile it can be if the teacher is an observant one.
There has been an occasional time as an adult sitting in a class or workshop that I felt similar feelings. I grew up often feeling inadequate and feared that answering a question would confirm that not only to me but also to everyone else in the room.
Those feelings are not so unusual, but I think how we respond to questions tends to reveal a bit more about us than we might wish.
A question can be viewed as an intrusion when we see it as interrupting whatever we are doing or thinking about. It can jar us out of our own little world back into the world of others. Often, we do not like that nor want that.
If we have young children (or really children of almost any age living at home), we experience this on a regular basis. For the youngest children, questions can seem to be almost endless and yet are essential as they seek to learn names of things, how they work, what they are for, and of course, why that is the way it is. As children get older, they seem to be looking for answers so they don’t have to think through where they left their homework, what happened to that favorite red sweater, or what you asked them to do five minutes ago.
A question can also be viewed as an intrusion when we feel it exposes something in us that we prefer to remain hidden.
In considering this subject of how we view questions, let me suggest that a question can also be an invitation to share who we are, what we think or know. Even when we fear it, most of us desire to be known, if we also are accepted and loved. That is the key…love and acceptance for who we are, where we are, and how we are. When we experience it, that allows us to grow, heal, and gain clarity in who we are and what we want to be or do.
Wise questions can also convey to us that someone cares about us and wants to develop a closer relationship with us. If we are honest, we need to recognize that everyone wants and needs to know they matter.
Asking good questions is really a gift and skill. When we do so, it can make a great deal of difference in our relationships.
No one was more gifted than Jesus in this. Absolutely no one. He seemed to be able to ask a question that was both an intrusion and an invitation at the same time. Listen to some of the examples we see in the gospels:
- “Why are you timid, you men of little faith?” Or in a modern translation “Why are you such cowards, such faint-hearts?”
- “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?”
- “Which is easier, to say, your sins are forgiven, or to say, rise and walk?”
- “But to what shall I compare this generation?”
- “O, you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
- “Who do you say that I am?”
- “What do you wish me to do for you?”
- “Who touched my garments?”
- “Do you love me?”
As I read these examples and many more, I see how each one intruded into the thinking and lives of the one or ones asked. His questions were often piercing and direct.
But I also see something else, his questions reveal His desire to be known, for us to see and understand the truth about Him as well as ourselves. He was inviting us to know Him and showing that He clearly knew us while yet loving us.
That reality speaks volumes to me about the relationship He desires to have with me, with us. It also speaks of the significance of the invitation. Those same questions reach out to us from His Word because He was and is speaking them to us as well.
Will we hide or will we accept His invitation?