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. A question can also be viewed as an intrusion if what is being asked seems more personal to us than the level of the relationship.
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?
11 thoughts on “Questions: Invitation or Intrusion”
I’ve never been one to actively ask questions in public. I’ve shied away from the limelight, and that’s probably part of the reason. Your post made me wonder if there are other hidden reasons for that.
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I have been doing a series on questions. Asking the right ones can help us make decisions and examine our hearts and lives, but Jesus was the best question-asker of all, wasn’t He? His questions go right to the heart of the issue.
I could not agree more, Donna! You are 100% right in all you have said here!💕
Pam, thanks for this! Asking good questions really is a needed skill. I liked when you said, “a question can also be an invitation to share who we are, what we think or know.” The heart of each of us is to be known, I don’t think I realized in order to be known, questions must be asked. I want to do better in this area.
Great insight here, Jerralea! Thanks so much for sharing it! You’re exactly right…most of us do not become known at deeper levels unless someone asks a good question with a clear motive that lets us know they want to know us better. We all blossom and grow more when that happens! The challenge for us is sometimes we first need to model that by the questions we ask and how we listen.
Have a blessed day!😊
Here’s my grumpy pet peeve about questions in an educational setting (especially in church!):
Ugh. When I know the questioner is fishing for one word that he’s holding in his head like a glowing ember and is going to refuse every answer that is not that word, I’m already checked out of the game.
However, when there’s an atmosphere of discussion and the questions are well-formed and open ended, I love a good Q and A. I feel as if we can take our cues from Jesus on this. He asked because He really wanted to know what the listener was thinking, not just to move on to the next point in his outline.
I so agree with you, Michele! I had one of those in our small group class this past Sunday. A question was asked and I gave an answer of possible answers and then the leader responded in a way that appeared to invalidate my answer. My answer wasn’t wrong, but not the answer he wanted. Yuck!! I also hate that and I personally think it shows a very ineffective teaching style.
Amen to a discussion and well-formed, open-ended questions that reflect a desire to know me and what I am thinking or believing!! ❤️
Sometimes the issue is we ask too many right/wrong questions when what we are trying to do is teach kids to think about the book/subject not just figure out how to give the teacher the answer he/she wants. One way to do that is to ask different kinds of questions and demonstrate how you think about those kinds of questions yourself.
I found my students started answering more creatively and yes even answered the factual questions in more detail when I demonstrated how I got to those answers. When I had read alouds I would talk about things that I found odd, confusing, or strange. I’d make the kinds of comparisons they were often asked to make, but had no clue what the question was asking them to do. Some of the frustration comes from not understanding how to do what we ask them and some from providing a wider range of questions to answer.
Well said, Shelties and I agree about the kinds of questions and the value of getting students to think versus give rote responses. No one can answer a question they do not understand in the first place. Well said! Clearly, you are an exceptional teacher!!😊
Pam, I used to be the same way in school. I secretly wished the teacher would never call on me because I might have the wrong answer and look stupid. Sometimes I knew the answer and still didn’t raise my hand because I was so shy. God has brought me a long way from that shy little girl, but sometimes those feelings can still come. You give much food for thought about questions and how they can be used. This is so true: “Asking good questions is really a gift and skill. When we do so, it can make a great deal of difference in our relationships.” I pray that God will enable us to ask the right questions and be genuinely interested in people. Blessings to you! Thanks for linking up with us at the #LMMLinkup.
Thanks for sharing your own experience with questions, Gayl. Thanks for your connectivity every time you comment….you do a great job! Hugs, Pam💕