I ran 8k (5 miles) today. As usual I meet cyclists. I don’t understand them. I say hi to all of them, but maybe one out of ten will say hi back. We live in the Maritimes of Canada… one of the friendliest places in the world. Everybody says hi to everybody. Canadians even apologize to everybody for nothing at all. Super nice. So when I’m running and automatically say hi to a cyclist and they ignore me, first I look down to make sure my nipples aren’t bleeding through my shirt (yes, this happens); then I wonder if there’s something else wrong with me or if they have earbuds in and didn’t hear me and I should’ve waved or if I have super bad breath; then finally I just realize it’s them. For some reason when you go from two legs to two wheels you become a dick. I’ll have to ask my cycling friend what’s up with that. There must be a code.
Same with motorcycles. I have my license and had a bike until I watched a pickup truck back up over mine in a parking lot. But motorcyclists are strange too. Cruisers don’t wave at crotch-rockets. And Harleys don’t wave at anybody except Harleys. There’s a code.
I just say “Phucket!” and wave at everybody. I’m going to be nice. How they handle my niceness is their problem. Not mine.
It’s the same when someone asks you a question. Most often they are exposing something about themselves. In fact, questions are usually self-revealing statements only cloaked in curiosity. It’s not about you at all. It’s about them.
I can tell right away if it’s a genuine question arising out of curiosity and a desire to know or if it’s a question designed to slot me somewhere in the limited capacity thinking of the questioner.
I take time to answer the curiosity ones. For example, a good friend of mine recently asked me if I believe in God. I knew this question came from a genuine desire to try to understand themselves and find some truthful order for their thoughts. The way I answered was by explaining to them the daily post the other day called “Compassionate Intelligence”. It was helpful all around. These questions are worth investing in because they not only help the questioner but they help me learn how to articulate what I believe to be true in clearer ways.
I don’t take time to answer the ones that intend to slot me, categorize me, or correct me… in other words… trap me.
Jesus was an expert in the question. It takes intentional thought and practice to get good at it. And courage. But we must because we are going to be questioned. Many of you already are!
1. The first thing I often do is deflect. I change the topic. “Do you believe in miracles!” I answer, “This coffee is great!” Or, “Hey, speaking of miracles did you hear about that guy who can hold his breath for 22 minutes?” Or I speak about serendipitous moments that have happened in my life, but that I’ve never ever in my life seen a physical healing of any significance. I have got the exact amount of money I’ve needed in just the nick of time in my mailbox.
2. Once in a while Jesus did take time to answer the question arising from genuine curiosity. Like Nicodemus in John 3. Jesus knew he was serious because he came to him alone and at night. And Nicodemus too knew the two-fold nature of a question: I am genuinely curious, but me asking Jesus this question is revealing something about me I don’t want my peers to know. So Jesus spent time answering his question.
3. Jesus most often answered with a question. For example, when the Pharisees asked him by what authority he was doing what he was doing, he said, “First answer me a question and I’ll answer yours, “What John the Baptist did… was that from heaven or from men?” They couldn’t answer because even though they hated John and believed he was of men, they knew the people loved him and felt he was from heaven. So they couldn’t answer or there’d be a riot.
I do this a lot. Recently a person asked me if I felt the bible was true. I asked, “Is anything in the Qur’an true?” “Yes, some things I guess.” I asked, “Where does all truth come from?” He said, “God.” I asked, “Then are you saying that the Qur’an is true?” End of conversation.
4. Many questions, like from our parents or other concerned ones like friends arise from fear. Maybe your parents think that you have to believe a certain way to go to heaven and because you no longer think that way they are genuinely afraid you are going to hell. So they ask you questions hoping that you will answer them correctly, proving to them that you are okay and will live together with them forever in heaven.
The pressure to just answer to their liking may be incredible. I have a friend who frequently asks me very basic theological questions because she is terrified for me and I think unconsciously for herself as well. When she does ask me a question like, “Well what do you do with Jesus?” I simply say, “I know this is hard for you. I know you’re afraid. I do realize that I’ve changed a lot. But I assure you I’ve never been happier. I am at peace. I’m on a journey that is not only exciting and terrifying like a roller-coaster, but necessary and fulfilling. I mean, it’s tough but it’s good for me. I just know it. Trust me. Really, I’m okay. And if you want to come with me I’m here for you.”
There’s many ways to answer questions. These are just some. So here’s my final question to you:
What have you tried?
Love to you all,