When we think of questions, the image of a toddler constantly asking: “Why?” comes to mind. It’s adorable at best and irritating at worst.
Toddlers are like sponges, absorbing everything around them, and their knowledge grows in leaps and bounds in these early years. They are arguably much better than adults at adapting to changes around them. I should know: I work with children five days a week as a primary school teacher, I’m one of the oldest of 23 grandchildren and aunt to four children under nine years old.
In the teaching profession, it’s widely accepted that this natural curiosity is priceless, yet because of systemic flaws in the education system, the inquisitive nature of children is slowly squeezed out before they leave primary and most definitely by secondary. The result is passive learners who struggle to apply their knowledge and therefore need lifelong spoon-feeding. Consequently, as we hear constantly in news headlines, graduates are entering the world of work, ill-prepared for real life.
I don’t know if it’s all completely true, but what I do know is that people who I would consider thinkers are people who ask questions.
I’ve truly valued, in the last few years, spaces that have allowed me to ask the questions I need to ask. But sadly, as Christians we can sometimes fall into another camp and be communities, spaces or people who hinder discussion. Rather than seeing tricky questions and hearing other views as a way of moving forward together in Christ and having our minds enlightened by hearing what we might not have thought or understood, we fear rocking the boat.
The status quo becomes the third person in the Trinity. In such environments people quickly leave, are stunted or find themselves ill-equipped to face the wider world where difficult questions, and those who ask them, definitely exist.
Last year, I attended some threads events, including the hustings, The Christian in Politics Show-Up Weekend and a publication launch by the Evangelical Alliance. They all had one thing in common: space to ask real questions.
I found it fascinating to hear a UKIP Christian candidate share their thoughts – I had never imagined you could be a Christian and be in UKIP. I heard Christians having different stances on politics and views on social issues. My mind and imagination was stretched in areas that they had never been before, and I truly began to consider new perspectives; the debate on millennials in the Church, while sitting on a boat on the Thames, set fireworks off in my mind.
Sessions like these equipped me for other intellectually challenging experiences, like my Master’s research proposal meeting and sessions, where coursemates quizzed and ripped apart my thoughts and I, theirs. Rather than being tearful or humiliating experiences, they were moments of true accountability. Since hearing different views is now the norm for me, I relish tricky conversations with friends and colleagues – not to show how clever I am, but because I now know the mutual benefit of it.
In a season of making plans and resolutions for the new year, mine is certainly, in the words of Os Guiness at the end of a Show-Up Weekend lunch, to “keep asking questions.”
My hope is that will be yours also and through it may we have many opportunities to learn from others, share with others and grow in Christ.
Ije Nwaneri is running her very own ‘Question Time’ next Saturday, 23 January. The Forum is a place to bring your ideas and questions to a panel of diverse individuals, including our own threads writers, Danny Webster and Natalie Collins. Book your tickets here.