Do you prefer fill-in-the-blanks or open-ended questions? Which would best describe the way you live out faith?
When we live out our faith with fill-in-the-blanks, we look for what we expect to fit. Sometimes we don’t even look at the context of the blank. We just know a blank is coming, and we sift through what’s coming into our lives to find what best fits. We know something must go there, and we don’t want it to be blank for long. We’d prefer the answers be handed to us on an answer key or shown on a large screen right in front of us. Fill-in-the-blank living can create a lazy interaction. Yes, we’re still engaged in doing something, but we’re jumping from one statement and blank to another, skimming what comes in between.
What if we lived out faith with open-ended questions that invite us to search? Open-ended questions aren’t as safe, because we can get off track without the structure of fill-in-the-blanks. We can easily meander down a rabbit trail or get distracted by a squirrel. Yet open-ended questions engage us. They invite us into experiences. As we learn through experiences, we apply what we learn. We feel a sense of ownership, because we’ve engaged in the process. We’re not just interacting with pen and paper; we’re interacting with the world around us. Open-ended questions lead to mistakes that seem a bit more significant than the fill-in-the-blank mess of crossing out a wrong answer. Just because we experience something doesn’t make our interpretation of what we experience or our perspective of what is accurate and what isn’t reflective of truth. The mistakes of open-ended questions can have lasting impacts, yet we continue to learn through those experiences when we’re seeking God’s truth over our own preferences and perspectives.
When we live by fill-in-the-blanks, we look for something specific. We expect something to fit, and when it doesn’t, we’re not sure what to do. When we live by open-ended questions, we explore what fits, and the answers we find through our experiences are richer and deeper.
Consider a few questions Jesus asked.
“Why do you notice the little piece of dust in your friend’s eye, but you don’t notice the big piece of wood in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:2)
Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why are you thinking evil thoughts?” (Matthew 9:4)
“Why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31)
Knowing what they were talking about, Jesus asked them, “Why are you talking about not having bread? Your faith is small. (Matthew 16:8)
But knowing that these leaders were trying to trick him, Jesus said, “You hypocrites! Why are you trying to trap me?” (Matthew 22:18)
Jesus knew immediately what these teachers of the law were thinking. So he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things?” (Mark 2:8)
When Jesus turned and saw them following him, he asked, “What are you looking for?” (John 1:38)
Jesus had the answers before he asked the questions. He didn’t ask because he needed the answers. He asked because he wanted people to work through the answers. He wanted them to search for the answers, engaging in the experience of learning.
What kind of questions are you asking? The ones you can easily fill in the blank or the ones that take a bit more time, move you out of your comfort level, and sometimes create more confusion before creating clarity?
Engage in a relationship with God. You’ll find the answers you need.