Curiosity, a desire to know or learn, seems to come as a part of our DNA from the outset. If you watch an infant moving through development into toddlerhood, you observe it over and over again. It seems to be what propels the baby to learn to do everything that we take for granted as adults. And for the whole of our lives, it can play a significant role in what paths we take and how far we travel along them.
But along the way this innate part of us can be encouraged or stifled. Some of us are encouraged to explore within the context of our family and early education, but some of us are overly protected so that exploring and learning new things become things we believe are risky, so it never develops fully. If the latter is true, learning required in school can be something we do not like to do because it requires we step outside of what we know.
I am not sure I was encouraged to be curious as I was growing up since generally my parents tended toward being overly protective. Nonetheless, I seemed to be curious about all sorts of things, somehow believing there were exciting things out there to discover and know.
A standing joke in our adult children’s homes is to retell some random tidbit of information I shared on a recent visit that seems not to fit anywhere in the course of a conversation that I had read or heard and found fascinating. One common one has to do with the water level of the Dead Sea, and I cannot even tell you now how long ago that incidental piece of information piqued my interest.
Some of us are curious about how things work, what makes things tick, or how to solve a puzzle. That can propel us into our hobbies or our career path as researchers, engineers, physicians, mechanics, and more. These types of persons are the ones we enjoy having in our home or circle of relationships because when something doesn’t work right or directions are not included, he or she can always sort it out for us. My husband is a lot like that.
Others are curious about less tangible things such as how interactions and relationships function and impact us or others. We find people – who they are, how they think, what drives them – intriguing. As a result, we often enjoy history and the people who made it as well as how we function together as humankind.
Curiosity can nudge us to take risks that are harmful when wisdom, discernment, and maturity are not there. When we are young, we touch hot stoves, jump off places that are unsafe, play with matches, and more. A bit later we may be curious about the magazines that someone hides under the bed, what an alcoholic drink tastes like, how to smoke, or what drugs make you feel like or if they are really harmful.
Curiosity can also nudge us into habits like being nosy about others so we can feel better about ourselves by having some morsel of information that might reveal our pettiness as we relate with others. Our intrigue with people may take us off on paths pursuing poor models because they are popular, successful, or rich. We can get caught up in talking about people instead of talking “to” people.
Is it possible this curiosity and a desire to “know” come from that first bite of the tree in the Garden of Eden? Is it also true that whether the course it takes in our lives is for good or evil depends on the choices we make with what is presented to us from the very beginning of our lives?
If it permeates us in so many areas, I wonder how often we spend a lot of time talking about God without ever talking “to” Him and coming to truly “know” Him instead of “know about” Him. Could that be one of the sources of our weakening faith, our fearful anxiousness, and despair?
“Prayer is the act in which we approach God as a living person, a thou to whom we speak, not an it that we talk about. Prayer is the attention that we give to the one who attends to us. It is the decision to approach God as the personal center, as our Lord and Savior, our entire lives gathered up and expressed in the approach. Prayer is personal language raised to the highest degree.”Eugene Peterson in Run with the Horses
Our curiosity about the chaos and darkening world can tempt us to take rabbit trails seeking an answer “now” for what is going on and what to expect. Sadly, too many rabbit trails lead us away from God rather than toward Him. The age of “instant information” we fell in love with turns out not to be so lovely after all when we are bombarded with things that leave us uncertain and unsettled about so many areas of our lives.
What we need is more conversation “to” God to hone our focus and be with us in the midst of the storm.
“Our compulsive timetables collide with God’s leisurely providence. We tell God not only what to do but when to do it. We take him seriously – why else would we be praying? – but we take ourselves more seriously, telling him exactly what he must do for us and when.”Eugene Peterson in Run with the Horses
Most of us likely feel that pinch just a bit, but I am also reminded of something a precious woman whose journey toward death I shared wrote in her journal that she left for me to have following her death.
“Storms and boats! Ever been in a storm? The waves are crashing, lightning flashing; the boat is rocking! Feel alone? Well, we aren’t! Jesus has promised to be in the boat with us! He’s promised to bring calm to the waves. At times though, I sure feel alone! But God’s promised – He’d never leave us; never forsake us! (Heb. 13:5) Jesus has promised to calm our storms! (Mt. 8:26)
We think He’s not even in out boat – yet He’s there…
We try to ‘calm’ our boat.
Have you ever stood up in a boat? Just our standing up makes us rock the boat all the more! Yet, if we wait and trust in Jesus – He is sure to calm our storm, steady our boat and keep us from drowning!”Linda Koon (12/27/49-2/11/99)