Becoming Curious: A Spiritual Practice of Asking Questions

By Casey Tygrett. IVP Books, 2017. 192 pages. $16/paperback; $15.99/eBook.

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Got faith? Then why question?

Now there’s a question, and one that Quakers may be more at home responding to than would some others. We Friends riddle our Faith and Practice with questions, elevating them to a religious art form: the query. How does Truth prosper among you? From the earliest days, we’ve acknowledged that at the core of our faith lies—not answers—but questions.

Becoming Curious is a book that welcomes questions and questioners. Casey Tygrett is a pastor and adjunct professor at Lincoln Christian University and Seminary. As you might expect, he is writing from a biblical perspective to a bible-based audience. As you might not expect, he sees Jesus as the master of questions, not a purveyor of easy answers.

Christian faith, for Tygrett, is a call to curiosity. “The curious tension of Jesus is that he shows us a God who wants to be known, not memorized.” It’s not about sitting in a classroom learning the catechism but walking back roads with Jesus, asking questions.

Jesus spends a lot of time in the gospels being asked and asking questions. He often responds to questions with questions, or with stories that raise yet more questions. In fact, Jesus encourages his closest followers to become like little children. What do little children do? They ask lots of questions. Tygrett hopes that his books will give us the permission to be as curious as a child. We get to live in the tension of doubt and wonder but also in the peace that Jesus promises to those that follow his way.

“I have found Jesus to be far less spectacular than he is kind and common,” writes Tygrett. Instead of fireworks, Jesus’s most profound moments are often meals with friends. And each miraculous healing, as Tygrett reminds us, leaves someone behind who is now, suddenly, ordinary. Being saved and restored turns out to look a lot like living our life, earning our loaves and fishes and paying our bills, only wildly curious about what just happened and continues to happen all around us.

Tygrett is particularly good at illuminating the tension between the ordinary and the divine, the Law and faith, ritual and freedom. He sounds like a Quaker when he asks us to ask ourselves: “What am I missing in my life that I’ve replaced with a…ritual?” But rituals are also beautiful and formative. Baking a birthday cake means nothing, except that it embodies the creative joy of a loving relationship.

Our discipline and practice are empty forms except when they express our relationship with the questions we can never fully answer. How do we love our enemy? How do we forgive one another? For Tygrett, it’s like preparing to run a marathon: “We can’t simply do it. We have to become the kind of person who does it.” Jesus’s answer to “Who is my neighbor?” is not a list of names but a way of being. His answer to “How often should I forgive?” is not really a number but a call to forgiving as a way of life.

Tygrett’s own questions at the end of each chapter can be penetrating. For example, when Jesus asks Bartimaeus: “What do you want me to do for you?” Tygrett turns to us and asks: “What would you say if Jesus asked you this question?” When Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” Tygrett asks you to ask yourself: “Who do people say that you are? And if Jesus interrupted your answer to give you a new name, as he does with Peter, what would that name be?” Some of Tygrett’s questions probe deep into memory, identity, life, and loss. Give this book plenty of time for journaling and reflection. It’s a book of spiritual formation for both Quakers and non-Quakers willing to walk the roads, asking and being asked the questions that matter.

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