People are looking for answers. How many times just this week were you looking for answers to a question you had. Sometimes it’s simple: What’s the best recipe for a chocolate chip cookie? Or What time does Home Depot close? What’s the best length for a blog? (Answer: 7 minutes, 1600 words) Really?? That seems long. But that’s what Google says, and who am I to argue with Google, Alexa, or whatever electronic sage you turn to these days?
What did we do before they ruled the world?
Other times, there is no Google answer: Why is my marriage so hard? Will I ever feel like I fit in this world? Why did James Bond always ask for his martini to be shaken and not stirred? (actually google will probably give you an answer to all of these if you asked.)
In fact, so much of the world feels flooded with questions. Maybe it’s because we have Google. When I was growing up (that’s shorthand for “I’m getting older” or “In my day”), if you didn’t know how to spell a word you had to go to a dictionary. This became a game of hide-and-seek since the originating problem was that I did not know how to spell the word and the dictionary is put together alphabetically and not phonetically (a word whose spelling I just googled). So, in the end, many of us just gave up and did not seek the answer to our question. If you had to hunt for it or find it in a book it felt like we were out of luck. The forty-four volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica seemed too daunting.
With Google, and YouTube, and the magic device in my hand I can find out if my mother is lying to me and if my teacher knows what they are talking about. So, questions have become cheap and easy. We are living in a world where the “Answer Producers” are King.
However, what has changed my life more than answers is questions. In fact, most of the time, that’s what’s actually changed the course of history. Not just any question, but good questions.
Here is an example of a powerful question I came across this past year. It is from life coach Jerry Colonna and who was a guest on Tim Ferriss’ podcast: How have I been complicit in creating the conditions I say I don’t want?
Go ahead. Get a cup of coffee and take the next four hours to understand the question and then to take a crack at answering it. Jerry is suggesting that we are often significant contributors to the very conditions we SAY we don’t want. How are we adding to the problem that we say we don’t want to have? My guess is he asks the question and spends the next 3 months helping his clients to unpack that.
Another gem from Michelle Stowe who talks about Restorative Practice in conflicted relationships (Watch HERE). She has a power set of simple questions she walks people through. However, she has one particular question that she uses to set up her process and set the stage for restoring relationships: Who do I want to be in this situation? Simple, but powerful. How weird is it that I’m not always clear on who I want to be in a given situation? Some moments I want to be a peace-maker, a diffuser of tension, a compassionate care-giver. Other moments I want to be an angry selfish brat, a hurt child, a bully, or a lost puppy.
Questions—good questions—are powerful. A couple of years ago I was asked to be on a mediation team for a local church who was in major conflict. We spent a full day interviewing congregation members to get a sense of what was happening. It became clear to me just after lunch that a particular person sitting in front of me had the potential to be a pivotal figure in either contributing to the problem or the solution. They had connections, influence, and perspective. No one had identified her as a critical figure, and she did not see herself that way. So, I simply asked: Do you realize the opportunity God has given you in this moment? The question caught her off guard. There was a long pause with a moment of reflection. She admitted that she did not. I laid out the facts as I understood them. She was a person of wisdom, deeply spiritual, had a sound perspective, held key relationships on both “sides” and had a very likable personality. If she chose “sides” she was the kind of person who could facilitate a real split. But she also had the skills and personality to bring healing and reconciliation.
Many people see the Bible as a source of answers—and it is. But, it is also full of rich questions. Questions that will bend your mind, get into your heart, and work their way into your soul. Questions that have the potential to re-orient your life. I love questions that have that effect upon me. So, we will spend some time around questions like that. And prayerfully it will bless you, help you, and challenge you.
Thanks for reading!