Last week while at a playground, my granddaughter Chloe discovered roller-skating. A young woman skated by where she was playing and Chloe became instantly intrigued by her skates. Then like any 5-year-old, she started asking questions, “How does she go?” “How can she stop?” “What do you mean there is a button on your toe to help her to stop?” “When do I get a pair of those?” And on it went… Both of my daughters patiently answered her questions until finally she became distracted with something else. Questions are a natural result of a curious mind and one that should be encouraged and developed in the life of a child.
Sometimes, depending on the environment, children may not be allowed to ask questions and their curiosity is squelched. Some adults may feel that too many questions can threaten authority resulting in disrespect for said authority. So children raised under these circumstances may grow up unable to voice their curiosity and end up just doing what they are told. Having been raised in an environment that didn’t allow me to question, or imagine new possibilities or even to share my thoughts and ideas stymied my ability to reason and process information. Finally, the freedom to engage my curious mind came a bit later in life through the classroom. As an adult student, sitting in classes in college opened up the world to me. I was fascinated by the creative minds of the younger students who questioned everything. A number of professors said that no questions were silly or stupid and at first I did not believe them. However as I watched them answer or discuss all of the questions in class, I began to trust their appreciation of inquisitive minds. We were encouraged to engage in all types of discussions and often like any good instructor they turned the questions around in order for us to find the answer ourselves. My newly developed and recognized curiosity opened the floodgates to limitless questions and knowledge.
There were times in this new found freedom, I felt like my granddaughter asking questions that were simple and impulsive. In one of my Old Testament classes, we were discussing the story of Gideon, who was called by God to lead an army to attack and overcome the Midianites. In the story, 30,000 men showed up to fight for Gideon. Really? How could that many men know about Gideon’s need without having texts, or cell phones, or even email? Of course I brought that question to my professor’s attention. He patiently addressed me by first reminding me that this was oral history which would have been written down years after the fact and the numbers may be fuzzy. Then he said when I focus on the literal number of soldiers, I was missing the point of the story. This story was never about the warriors or for that matter Gideon but the power and faithfulness of God, the great I AM who delivered Israel, his people from another enemy. It was then I began to realize that while my questions weren’t silly or stupid, they were the wrong questions. As I grew in my knowledge and confidence in who I am and in my relationship with God, my questions began to change and mature letting go of topical details that I could figure out myself and seek a broader understanding and meaning.
The words of the Apostle Paul brought a new understanding to my curious mind, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways” (1 Cor. 13:11). Questions are great and should be encouraged no matter who is asking. However, as we mature and our skills of reason develop our questions take on a deeper richer meaning. There is great satisfaction in the freedom to seek, ask and discover a variety of answers and options of understanding of the world around us.