THE ART OF ASKING QUESTIONS

             I like questions–actually, I love questions.  I also enjoy getting answers to questions but to be honest, I am often happier with the question than the answer.  I actually think there is an art to asking questions.  Good questions come out of a willingness to look carefully at something, do some thinking and even evaluating and processing and then figuring out just what is the question knocking at the edge of awareness.

I look at my yard and wonder why it is that the grass doesn’t grow all that well, except for that one place near the road in the front.  My not very extensive research suggests that grass needs water, sunlight and some nutrients to grow well.  The obvious question is simple:  What is the missing factor that keeps the grass from growing well?

That is the obvious question–but it really isn’t the kind of question that I get excited about.  It didn’t take much investigation to get an answer to it.  Much of the lawn is in perpetual shade from the huge oaks and maples that surround the property; the soil is mostly gravel with very little organic content and the patch in front that grows so well has a small spring emptying into the ditch.

But to be honest, the obvious questions and their answers aren’t what excites me the most–I like digging around and coming up with more difficult, more probing, even more troubling questions.  In terms of the lawn, my preferred type of question would deal with things like, “Why should I care if the lawn doesn’t grow well since I hate mowing the lawn anyway?”

An even better question would be, “Why do we have to have a lawn in the first place?”  I mean, how did our culture reach the point where carefully tended grass about 5-7 cms long became a prized part of single family dwellings?  Are there better uses for the millions of dollars spent on lawn care and thousands of hours of hours work?

I don’t actually spend all that much time thinking about the lawn–it is on my mind today because with the early spring here, I will have to mow it soon.  But I do focus a lot of my question time and effort on things that are important to me, one of which is my faith and all that goes with that.

I am part of the conservative church and sometimes, it seems to me that we make everything an article of faith that cannot be questioned.  What we wear to worship becomes as important as making the right confession of faith and both are as important as what kind of movies we watch and on and on.

While I grew up in that context, I asked myself a difficult question years ago.  I was reflecting on working in two different cultures and how the culture affected that faith and suddenly I had a question:  “What is the irreducible minimum requirement of faith, the have-to accept ideas and concepts that make or break faith?”  Rather than accept everything, my question was pushing me in another direction.

I have been working on that question since that day.  I don’t have a final answer and don’t expect to have a final answer–but the question itself seems to me to be a really important one.  In answer to the question, for example, I realized that it doesn’t much matter if the communion cup contains grape juice or wine.  Nor does it matter if the music at worship comes from an organ, piano, guitar or drum–and if there isn’t any music, it can still be worship.

The question keeps me looking at my faith and its content and its expression, sharpening and refining and sometimes redefining parts of it.  I have found that some people are upset by the question but it is an important one for me.  It is exactly my type of question–it is big, it makes me think a lot about important stuff, it probably has no final definitive answer but the process of asking the question and looking at all the possibilities has helped my grow in faith.

While I like answers, I think that in the end, I like the questions more, especially the ones that keep me thinking and praying and studying.

May the peace of God be with you.

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