Ever since I was small, my favorite question has always been “why?”
Preschoolers love to ask “why?” They are curious to a fault and never tire of taking the conversation to further conclusions with this question. They never tire of it, though parents and caregivers often do.
One way to look at personality types is by asking what question shapes how they understand and interact in the world. So, for example, with the DISC:
- A high D (dominance) will ask WHAT needs to be done?
- A high I (influence) will ask WHERE can I have influence?
- A high S (steadiness) will ask WHO can I care about?
- A high C (conscientiousness) will ask HOW can this job be done well?
You have to look deeper than the DISC to find the people driven by a WHY. Consider these descriptions of the INFP/J (from the MBTI scale). They “want to understand what motivates people” and “want an external life that is congruent to their values.” It’s not enough for INFJ/P types to have a job to do – their work needs to be connected to a broader purpose in order for it to be meaningful.
Knowing this is true about myself, it was not surprising that Casey Tygrett’s book Becoming Curious (IVP, 2017) resonates so well with me. He reminds his readers that God welcomes our questions, quite unlike the weary parent who tells their 4-year-old “because I said so” to stop the incessant barrage of “why?” In fact, Jesus himself used probing questions throughout his ministry to help those around him look below the surface:
- “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:36)
- “Who do you say I am?” (Matt 16:15)
- “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor?” (Luke 10:36)
- “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6)
- “Do you love me?” (John 21:15-17)
Tygrett uses examples from Jesus’ ministry along with his own personal stories to show that curiosity about our circumstances can lead us into deeper faith – that “when we open the door to questions and curiosity, things flow out that we don’t expect” (10). In his book, Tygrett first establishes the importance of questions, connecting curiosity to that childlike faith that asks “why?” He then explores identity, motivation, love and failure, ritual, forgiveness, and change, with a central chapter on how we should interact with others – not with fear, but with hospitality.
In a world where many would prefer to have black and white over gray, clear boundaries and definite margins, we aren’t always comfortable with curiosity.
Curiosity takes time.
Curiosity can be messy.
Curiosity challenges our certainties about who God is, or what we believe.
But curiosity is important because “sometimes our certainties obscure what the good God is working in our story and in our world” (27). God’s story will continue, and God is involved in our world, even when we blindly pass by. When we assume we have “Christ-following” all figured out – that our way is the “right” way – we might miss out on the opportunity to join God in something God is already doing.
I was especially convicted by Tygrett’s chapter on love and failure. He reminds us that “part of our formation as curious children of God is learning how to understand and embrace our failures as part of who we are and at the same time repent of our old ways of seeing failure” (104). Being fully present, being curious about the “why,” and recognizing failure as an opportunity to grow – these are all important to our spiritual formation.
I’ve experienced having someone I love call attention to some less than stellar behavior on my part. He identified words, tone of voice, and even actions that communicated a lack of caring toward someone else. He reminded me that – particularly as someone who claims a call to ministry – I should have shown more empathy and understanding. It was hard to hear – but valuable to reflect upon. In the past, this sort of criticism might have sent me into a downward spiral of shame and unworthiness. But this time, in part because of my willingness to be curious, I was able to observe and correct my behavior and seek restoration.
As Tygrett shared the story of Jesus and Peter in John 21, I was able to see Jesus’ presence as a reminder of his faithful love, and understand that my “failure could actually be a catalyst for great goodness” (112). Even after Peter’s failure, Jesus still says “Feed my sheep.”
I still have much to learn. But in spite of my failure(s) – and maybe even because of my failures – I still have a purpose and a calling to serve in God’s kingdom work. And sometimes, before we can communicate God’s grace to others, we have to accept and communicate that grace to ourselves.