Kids go through phases. One of them is asking endless questions.
Children ask why with more ferocity than goats climbing Moroccan argan trees:
Why is the sky blue?
Why do we have to wait to _____?
Why can’t I _______?
Parents may answer the first or second time, but after a strand of unceasing whys following each answer, the parent’s likely to set aside that conversation.
However, one parent and daughter kept the conversation going.
I heard a story on a podcast about a daughter who asked her father lots of questions. This 9-year-old girl asked better questions than most adults.
When the father was working on the computer and his daughter told him she had some questions, he told her to write them down and come back in a few minutes.
She wrote down the questions. 50 of them. On three pages, single spaced.
She was 9 years old. These were some of her questions:
- What is life? Why?
- Where do we go when we die? Explain.
- Why is there heaven or hell?
- Time. Why? Explain.
- Why do you do what you do?
- How do you know what’s true?
- Who do you miss? Why?
- Why any of this?
Imagine the father’s response when she handed him three pages of these questions. Where did these questions come from? What was happening in his daughter’s mind and spirit? Why now?
He could have given her quick, easy answers. Or he could have told her to search for the answers on Wikipedia or in books. He could have given her a reply to a few of the questions and ignored the others. He could have said, “I’ll tell you when you’re older.”
Instead, the father started researching and composing detailed responses to each question. He didn’t sweep aside her questions, no matter how big or small. He listened to his daughter and invested himself in providing earnest replies.
Time-Consuming on Purpose
Over the past three years, the father has only answered two-thirds of the original questions. But the daughter cared less about the answers: “I thought [the questions] would take him a long time to answer, because of the time I really just wanted to talk to him.”
The daughter didn’t spend much time with her father because she moved to New York with her mom and grandparents. When her grandfather died, she had to move in with her dad during the week. She had few friends at school. “I was lonely and I felt a little sad … I really needed somebody to talk to.”
So she brought the questions to her dad, who was engrossed in his professorial work.
A child just wanted her father to set aside his screens so they could talk.
The father said he talked to his daughter all the time—he told her when to get up and go to school, when to do homework, when she needed to get a new jacket. But those instructions don’t equate to a close, warm relationship. Sharing a set of facts or commands is not a conversation.
“Forget the Questions; I Just Want to Talk”
The daughter asked questions because she didn’t want to feel alone. She wanted to feel OK, like she was heard and seen and appreciated.
Philosophers ask, “Why are we here?”
Scientists ask, “How did we get here?”
Religions ask, “Where is God in all of this?”
Futurists ask, “Where are we going?”
Some of us collide with the big questions of existence and the incomprehensible nature of it all. When we ask “What is reality?” “Why are we here?” “What is God?” “Why does it matter?” we’re not just spouting out random queries.
It’s OK to spout off endless questions or risk getting lost in the magnitude of mystery.
It might help you find more beauty in unexpected places. You might find undesirable answers. Sometimes asking more questions may cause things to change for you, but not for your friends. Those relationships may change, but in the process, you’ll be less alone because you’ll find others who are asking those honest questions, too.
We’re children who write pages of inquiry and bring them to the table, hoping for some answers that will satisfy our curiosity. Even deeper than the questions, we want to know we’re OK, heard, seen and appreciated.
What if God didn’t want to give you a list of instructions to follow or tasks to accomplish, but was waiting on you to ask more and better questions?
Be wary of anyone who tells you to stop questioning God or “just believe” without being honest about your desires, beliefs and reservations.
Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
What if you could understand more about yourself and the world, not because you find precise details to support every single logical deduction, but because in the wrestling with questions you sense you’re not alone?
Didn’t Jacob wrestle with God, refusing to give up or let go until he received clarity, direction, a blessing? Because of his divine struggle, he found a new name, a reforged identity that grew to encompass the Israelite people.
In the midst of confusion, God is for you.
In the middle of your doubt, God is with you.
At the end of your rational explanations, God invites you further.
How Questioning Changes You
You’ll miss what’s good, true and beautiful if you think you already have the answers.
In the questioning and yearning for response, you become a different person. You transform. You grow into a better version of yourself through the challenges and changes you face (which I write about in my book).
You’re more open to paradox, you can understand why your “enemy” would think or act that way, and you admit you have less thorough answers than you first thought you did. You become more humble and more confident at the same time. You reject exclusionary dualistic thinking, instead looking for perspective with nuance because reality is full of non-binary truths.
You are remade by your curiosity and your searching.
May your questions set the table for more vulnerable relationships.
May your questions pave the way for more authentic faith.
May your yearning for responses create in you a deeper capacity to love and be loved, regardless of the answers you find.
This article originally appeared at johnweirick.com. Used with permission.
is a writer in Greenville, South Carolina, and is the author of The Variable Life: Finding Clarity and Confidence in a World of Choices, from which this article is adapted. Visit thevariablelife.com to find more.