Gift 10 – Holy Curiosity

“Never lose a holy curiosity.” – Albert Einstein

I asked my Freshmen Bible students to read an entire Gospel account while making a list of all their questions as they read. After 3 weeks, a young man told me he’d finished reading the gospel of Matthew. “Great,” I said, “Do you have your list of questions?”

“No,” he replied, “I didn’t have any questions.”

“What? You read the entire book of Matthew and didn’t have a single question?” I asked.

“That’s right,” said the young man.

“You must not have actually read it,” I said.

“No, I read it, Mr. Russ. Honestly, I did!”

“No, no, I’m not accusing you of not ‘reading’ it. I’m sure your eyes passed over the words on the page, but I’m afraid you didn’t read it.”

“…huh?”

I tried explaining that the purpose of the assignment wasn’t for his brain to waterski across the surface of the text, but to scuba dive in the depths of the story looking for peculiarities on the way. Waterskiing is good and fine, but you’re not going to find treasure on the seafloor that way.

Now he was really confused. “Look,” I said, “the point wasn’t just to read the book, or even to just understand it, but to engage the drama on a deeper level. This happens when we ask questions. Make sense?”

Though I’m not sure the student got it, I began thinking more about the importance of curiosity. It’s true, asking questions is one of the most powerful ways of engaging…well, everything—subjects in school, the Bible, the world around you, people. If you’re looking for adventure, then ask a question and follow where it takes you. Asking a question is like stumbling on a path that might lead to some incredible, undiscovered place.

I wholeheartedly believe that genuine curiosity is more valuable than a storehouse of knowledge. You could know as much as the Internet, but if there’s no gas in the tank then you’re not going to go anywhere. Curiosity is the fuel of discovery. It’s a wellspring that never stops bubbling. It’s a spark.

Unfortunately, this spark often dims (and sometimes dies) as a person grows older. I recently read that children ask on average 125 questions a day. Adults ask 6. Most kids are full of wonder, possibility, imagination, and curiosity, while so many adults are fraught with assumptions, routine, suppositions, and the burden of responsibility. I understand this; it makes sense. Becoming an adult is certainly not a bad thing, but something extraordinary happens when you hold on to your curiosity as you grow older.

Need an example? Albert Einstein is considered to be one of the most brilliant minds to have ever lived. He transformed the study of physics by proposing and defending revolutionary ideas about the nature of light, space, and time; concepts that opened the door to the world of quantum physics. Einstein’s conception of the universe changed the way scientists and mathematicians think—his impact is so significant that it will never be fully realized or appreciated. And yet, Einstein denied being the kind of “born genius” that many supposed he was. “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”

Amen.

The best part is that questions are like potato chips: you can’t have just one. Real questions are always connected to more questions, and more questions, and more questions. I believe chasing these questions is a form of worship. I also believe that a day spent without asking questions is essentially sleepwalking. Part of being dangerous is having a mind that is fully awake, alive, and eager to engage the world in new ways.

Here’s some fun ones to get you started: Why is the sky blue? How was chess invented? What makes ocean waves? Who decided there are seven days in a week? How far away is the sun? Where did Jesus grow up? Why is Christmas celebrated on December 25? How does electricity work? And where does your poop go when you flush it down the toilet?

Go get ‘em, son. Have fun.

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