The Value of Question Marks

The word “what” marks months 14-31 of Faye’s life. On any day among those months, I practice explanations for items like cardboard, tattoos, and fingernails. She asked me what my nail polish was called the other day and I had to pause. “Topless and Barefoot” seemed a difficult thing to explain to a toddler.

But two months ago environmental comprehension must have reached sufficient levels.

We now walk in the land of “why.”

It’s only been a couple months, so explaining why we have to take baths, why our neighbors walk their dogs, and why she can’t call me Kels, still registers at 95% fascinating and 5% taxing.

These days concentration, not satisfaction, overtakes curiosity when I answer Faye’s whys. She mulls. Then hours later Faye pours me pretend tea and explains that she knows the reason she can’t smack another person’s rear-end is because “we have to be nice with our bottoms.”

Not exactly what I said when she did that very thing to the boy climbing out of the pool at swim lessons, but sure, that’ll work. You should certainly be nice with your bottom.

The Hency family walked into this land of “why” alongside American’s newest entrance into the land of international refugee care. And her extended line of questioning has taken shape as America has entered the 2016 Presidential race.

The contrast is sharp.

Faye’s initial reaction is to question: grown up America’s to opine.

Faye’s desire is to understand: grown up America’s to convince.

Faye believes others have things to teach her: grown up America believes they have something to teach, nothing to learn.

Admittedly, Faye’s method takes longer. Answering the why takes so much more time. More time to explain. More time to internalize. More time to synthesize what she heard into her very own thoughts and words.

But when I look at the gospels, Jesus seems to encourage questions. The official count of questions asked by Jesus in the Gospels is 307.

Jesus consistently pushes humanity toward critical thinking via questioning. This question was a skill he had exercised himself as he grew in stature and knowledge.

Luke 2 tells the story of Mary and Joseph taking their family to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast when Jesus was a boy. They left Jerusalem and headed home under the impression that Jesus was among the throng of relatives and friends traveling together. He wasn’t.

A full day into their journey, Mary and Joseph realize Jesus didn’t catch the flight so they do what any parent would and frantically return to Jerusalem.

46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
Luke 2:46-47

Oh Luke. How I love the order that this doctor brings to the story of Jesus.

Luke tells us that Jesus parents found him (1) In a place to hear from experts (2) Listening to the experts (3) Asking questions of the experts (4) Giving his own answers to questions.

Certainly as Jesus sat for days learning from and interacting with these teachers at the temple these four things mingled. I doubt day 1 was for positioning and listening, day two and three for asking questions, and day four for giving answers. Fluidity must have existed.

Yet, there was order.

Asking, mulling, and considering happened before Jesus opened his mouth. And what happened when he did open his mouth? “All who heard him were amazed,” amazed at what? The first thing the text says is his understanding. The second thing it says is his answers.

Pursuing clear and thorough understanding of a topic before we offer opinions on it is a manifestation of Christ-likeness.

The refugee crisis and the Presidential election will continue to be topics the masses give their opinions on. Being quick to contribute to the throngs of flapping tongues and furious fingers may seem a virtue. It is not.

Listen, ask, consider, and then by all means speak your well-thought-out mind. The masses may be amazed. Christ-likeness has that effect on people.

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