Becoming Curious, Casey Tygrett (Foreward by James Bryan Smith). Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2017.
Summary: Commends curiosity as essential to transformation and helps us cultivate the practice of asking questions as a spiritual practice.
Anyone who has been a parent knows there is a season of life where you probably answer a hundred questions a day from your growing child. As children grow and change by asking questions, we begin to settle into the role of being people who have life figured out enough to have “the answers.” That settling can be dangerous, as we harden in attitudes and dispositions. We cease to grow.
Casey Tygrett thinks that curiosity isn’t just for the young but rather an essential for growth and transformation at any age. He proposes that we need to become, not childish, but rather childlike, and that learning to ask questions, lots of questions, can be a spiritual practice that helps us cultivate curiosity, and that can be the doorway to change as we live with our questions before God.
His book is organized around different kinds of questions we might explore, and each chapter ends with a “questions journal exercise” that encourages us in this practice. Among the kinds of questions he explores is the searching question that Jesus asks both James and John, and the blind man: “What do you want me to do for you?” He encourages us to think of how we would answer, and what it would be like were Jesus to ask the question of us and what we would answer him. He considers questions of identity (“who do you say I am?”), questions of motivation (Why?), the question of the other, and what it means to love the other well (“Who is my neighbor?”), and the questions of failure (our own) and forgiveness (of ourselves and others). Finally he considers what is perhaps the hardest question, what it means to change, which often involves dying, resurrection, and ascension.
What impressed me so much about this book was how Tygrett comes at so many familiar passages with a fresh slant. Earlier, I wrote on his discussion of “repentance.” There his question is, what if we thought of repentance as an invitation rather than a command? I found this fresh slant in the chapter on failure, where he observes that Jesus doesn’t make Peter confess that he had denied the Lord, and that Jesus invites Peter to participate in his own reinstatement in responding to his questions “do you love me?”
This was most apparent in what he wrote on forgiveness:
“One of the reasons curiosity is so important to our growth and formation is that it’s not enough to hear Jesus teaching ‘forgive,’ and then we do it.
We need the second question–the curious question–How?
When it comes to forgiveness, the how is not just an event. It’s not just an action, an attitude, a prayer, or a gift given in hopes of burying a hatchet.
Forgiveness is an address. It’s a place where you live.”
I’ve never heard it expressed like this but it so makes sense. It is like there are only two houses we can live in–a judgment world or a forgiveness world. We either live in a world of judging and being judged, or in forgiving and being forgiven.
My sense is that this freshness arises out of the author’s own childlike curiosity. Perhaps one of the simple goodnesses of this book is the permission he gives to ask questions. Some of us may have gotten the mistaken notion that this is not permitted of “good” or “mature” or “orthodox” Christians. Far from being a problem or an apologetic challenge, he treats questions as an opportunity to be encountered by the God who is not put off by our questions but uses the questions we bring into God’s presence as a means not simply to inform us but to change us–to transform us.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.