I’m not sure how you feel about questions. When I sat in classrooms, I felt anxiety about being asked a question. I tended to fear I would not know the right answer or say something that sounded foolish. I tried to be small enough in my seat so the teacher might not see me and ask. Of course, that was not very successful.
Later, as a teacher, I got a great view of what I must have looked like to my teachers, as I would see similar behaviors in certain students. I understood their feelings of uncertainty, their lack of confidence, and their insecurity.
I began to look for ways to ask questions of my students that would be a “win” for them, to encourage them and build up their confidence. I looked for ways to respond to their answers so that even if they were not correct, they would still feel valued.
As a professional counselor, developing my understanding of how to ask questions that would encourage the person sitting in my office to share with me moved to another level. I wasn’t asking questions as simply a formality, but to begin to really discover who the person truly was so I could glimpse the gifts, skills, and abilities within them to serve as a foundation to bring them hope in the midst of their situation.
Over the course of my life, I have come to see the gift the best question can be for others as well as for me. You see, the best question allows me to know you.
I have also discovered it is an ability or gift or skill that many do not have.
The best question is one which opens the heart of the person I have asked it of or it opens mine if I was the one asked.
Why is that significant?
It is foundational to a healthy, growing, vibrant relationship that goes beyond the surface and provides me with someone who provokes me to consider what I am thinking and feeling, how I came to those conclusions, and how they line up with what I know about myself or know from the Word.
A question that opens my heart gives me the possibility and gift of being known.
Consequently, any person who asks such a question deposits a gift into my life that I value highly. To be known is risky, but without the risk I have no hope of discovering I can be loved and accepted just as I am at that moment.
I admit to having developed some biases where questions are concerned. I am not a fan of some of the most common ones:
- How are you?
- What’s up?
- How have you been?
These questions are often asked as I bump into someone I haven’t seen for a while and even if the person is sincere, it doesn’t register that with me. Often we are in a store, standing in line for coffee, or in the lobby at church when such questions are asked. I am keenly aware of feeling I cannot really respond to the question because there is neither time nor an environment that allows for a conversation of any depth. I think that happens to most of us. Perhaps that is why the common answer we give is, “I’m fine” even if we are not.
We have relationships at many levels, but what I most value are a few deeper relationships where someone has sought and desired to know my heart. Those are the gifts that develop intimate connection.
No one asks better questions than Jesus. There is not a thing about his questions that are superficial.
Each question is asked with purpose. Page after page of the gospels give us one example after another. Here are just a few:
- Do you want to be well?
- Who is it you’re looking for?
- What do you think?
- What do you want me to do for you?
- Why are you so afraid?
- Why did you doubt?
- Why are you bothering this woman?
He seems to ask questions that should be obvious and yet have a power that unlocks the person’s heart, pulls them out of their hopelessness, lifts the cloud from their eyes, and puts them in touch with their heart and the desire that has died.
His questions break through the hard shell we have developed from too much disappointment, too much hopelessness, and too much pain.
His questions expose the truth that when our hope was deferred we not only became sick, but also desire died within us.
Jesus comes into our lives by awakening a desire for Him, a desire for what we lost in Eden or in the laws we tried to keep to find Him.
Those questions that awaken desire bring us fully alive spiritually. They shake us out of our lifeless routines, our religion of duties and obligations. They give us the gift by being the best questions.