Recently, I’ve heard conversations about important questions to ask and to answer. That made me think about other significant questions I’ve heard or been asked.
A friend said that she didn’t get to see her uncle very often, so when they were together they made the most of the time. He would always ask, “How is your spiritual life?” She admired him, and his question prompted her to live in such a way that she could give a good answer when he asked.
This morning my friend Connie talked about five important questions we should ask in times of crisis. The first one is not “Why?” or “Why me?” but instead “What do I know about God?” Wow! We know that he is faithful and powerful and almighty. We know that James tells us to “consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” That is certainly part of what we know about God.
Another part that James tells us is that will give us wisdom if we ask. How wonderful is that! As a parent, a healthy dose of wisdom was what I needed every day—and still do.
A question Americans often asked soon after being introduced is “What do you do?” I’ve seen some international people look stumped by this question. They repeat it with a puzzled air. When the question is changed to “What is your occupation?” they are quick to answer. We have many idioms that ELL people do not understand, but we also ask questions in ways unlike the questions in their English textbooks.
In Ukraine on one of his early LST trips, Josh asked a reader, “What did you do this weekend?” At least that’s what Josh thought he asked. Think of how we normally say that question. The reader pulled out his English dictionary and started searching. “What are you looking up?” Josh asked.
“Whadja,” was the reply. Oops! Easily clarified. So that’s a good reminder to enunciate clearly when asking questions of someone for whom English is not a first language.
“What were you thinking!” is a rhetorical question often asked by parents. It’s often followed by “Oh–wait! You weren’t!” and a sarcastic laugh. Teens especially resent all the questions conscientious parents ask when their children are going out.
“Where is Landry?” is a question often asked when adults become absorbed in conversation and quit watching that lively, busy 3-year-old. She gets away quickly.
“What dat?” is a common Landry question. She picks up everything and wants to learn about everything. It’s fun to respond to her curiosity.
The Bible is full of important questions, from Jesus asking, “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15) to the Ethiopian eunuch saying, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” (Acts 8:36). Then Paul’s classic, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” (Romans 6:1). (The answer, in case you’re curious, is “By no means!” NIV, and “God forbid,” KJV.)
The most aggravating questions asked of my husband Steve are at restaurants of all kinds. When he orders a plain hamburger with only tomato, onion, pickle, and mustard, he is inevitably asked, “Would you like cheese on that?” even though, of course, he could have ordered a cheeseburger if he’d wanted cheese. The other one is when he orders “black coffee.” “Would you like cream with that?” is the response. No. Then it would not be black.
Steve is known for asking questions. He’s very interested in everyone he meets and wants to know about them. He sometimes asks so many questions it begins to seem like an interview—or, in the case of his first meeting with our future daughter-in-law, an inquisition. But asking questions is a great way to show an interest and learn more about someone. (What you may learn is that they don’t like to answer questions, but not often.)
Most of the time, I think we don’t ask enough questions. Instead, we want to jump in with our own stories or conclusions. I recently read a great paragraph on this subject in The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein:
People, if you pay attention to them, change the direction of one another’s conversations constantly. It’s like having a passenger in your car who suddenly grabs the steering wheel and turns you down a side street. For instance, if we met at a party and I wanted to tell you a story about the time I needed to get a soccer ball in my neighbor’s yard but his dog chased me and I had to jump into a swimming pool to escape, and I began telling the story, you, hearing the words “soccer” and “neighbor” in the same sentence, might interrupt and mention that your childhood neighbor was Pele, the famous soccer player, and I might be courteous and say, Didn’t he play for the Cosmos of New York? Did you grow up in New York? And you might reply that, no you grew up in Brazil on the streets of Tres Coracoes with Pele and I might say, I thought you were from Tennessee, and you might say not originally, and then go on to outline your genealogy at length. So my initial conversational gambit—that I had a funny story about being chased by my neighbor’s dog—would be totally lost, and only because you had to tell me all about Pele. Learn to listen!…listen to other people rather than steal their stories.
We’ve all been in that situation. An important part of listening well is asking questions before jumping in with our own comments. We often get the best information by asking just one more question.
So now you can click on the title, then go to the end to comment and to answer this: What questions interest you the most?