The Uncomfortable Freedom Curiosity Brings
Remaining Curious About How Other People Think
The year I turned 40, my husband threw me a surprise birthday party which was incredibly sweet, except I hate surprise parties. I seem like the kind of person that would love a surprise party. I love being spontaneous. I love parties. Why wouldn’t I love being surprised with a party for me?
The answer is complicated. I like planning parties. I enjoy anticipating the party interacting with people about whether or not they are going to come. Even if they don’t come, I had a chance to reconnect with them. I enjoy picking out decorations and planning the corny parts. I live for making sure everyone feels included. Also, I don’t like being really emotional in front of people. (I am aware that I’ve shared several stories of me crying in public...I am embarrassed by each one of them!) And finally, my husband doesn’t clean as much as I do.
It’s really funny that Brian and I were married for 21 years before I convinced him that I really mean it when I say that I don’t like surprise parties. He is a great guy and he tries really really hard to understand me, but this one wasn’t sinking in for him. In his mind: I had so much fun, I didn’t have to do any of the work. Everyone knows women like to be surprised even if they say they don’t, just ask Hallmark. Also, for him, nothing is worse than planning a party so this was the ultimate sacrificial loving thing he could do for me, of course, I would recognize that and be overwhelmed with undying love for the man who would do that for me!
It’s a long complicated, frustrating, beautiful task to try to understand another person and no matter how much we learn, we will never fully be able to think like anyone but ourselves. We will always see things first through our lens. Then, perhaps, if we work really hard and listen a whole lot, we can glimpse the world through someone else’s lens. Or we can imagine what they are seeing through their lens. It is a beautiful and frustrating thing about human relationships. When we do it well, we get to gain new insights and understand the world in different ways. (About a lot more important things than different views of surprise parties.)
Being Curious About God
The really crazy thing is that we all live in this reality and then approach God like we can figure him out. Christians say that they want a relationship, but if we aren’t still curious about learning who God is, we have chosen religion not a relationship.
And as harsh as that might sound, there is no way it’s not true. It is not possible to really believe that you completely understand the creator of a universe that humanity collectively is barely beginning to understand. We can’t even completely understand ourselves or each other in 20+ years.
Curiosity Feels Scary
But, curiosity feels scary when it comes to God. Certainty feels safe. Brian and I were talking about this just a few days ago. He is one of the smartest smart people I know. He is the kind of guy who dreams about getting a second doctorate, this time, in physics because it would be “fun”. He loves seeking answers to hard questions and contemplating questions that make my head swim. But he admitted curiosity about God makes him uncomfortable.
As we talked about why. He finally concluded that curiosity in all of the other areas feels like it will lead to definite conclusive answers. Curiosity about who God is seems like it leads to more questions and less certainty. That’s not a comfortable place to be when it comes to religion.
We all want certainty in an uncertain world full of hurt. We all want to get it right.
The Beauty and Freedom Curiosity Brings
But if God is really actually a relational being who wants to walk through life with us, we have to relate to him with curiosity. We have to keep seeking to know more. When we find out a few things and go no further, we see him as being like ourselves. We imagine him seeing the world through our lens. We start making him in our image. We miss the beautiful freeing complexity of knowing someone different from us and seeing what they can add to our understanding of the world. (We try to throw him a surprise party and then realize…oh wait! That’s not possible!)
Certainty may feel somewhat safer but it kills the relationship. Knowing him is worth embracing the uneasiness of uncertainty. Being curious about who he really is, is the most amazing journey I could ever imagine. It frees me from my limited lens of viewing the world and opens my eyes a little more the more I seek to know him. I get to learn to see the world they way God does! The most beautiful part, is learning to see people the way he does. I’m far from having this down, but every time I see a glimpse of how he views us, it’s unbelievably beautiful and I feel honored.
What Curiosity Is NOT
Just to be clear here, I’m not talking about some weird nonsense where you just believe whatever because you freed your mind from logic and intelligence so you can go about being led by emotional whims. I’m talking about asking hard questions and seeking hard answers; admitting that you don’t know; you don’t have it all figured out; and being willing to see how much you have defined God through your own social, cultural, economic, and personal lens. It is a lifelong process.
I absolutely believe that this is why we are told over and over in scripture to seek God with humility and fear. Not because he’s ready to squash us, but because God knows the cruelty that comes with the arrogance of thinking we have him all figured out.
I love the way Madeleine L’Engle puts it: “if you must have finite answers to infinite questions, then you aren’t going to move”.
I want to move. I want to grow and be better than I am. Curiosity, as uncomfortable as it is, is one of the ways I can ensure that I keep moving.
So, stay curious my friends!