I often hear it said that asking the right question is more important than having the right
answer. That seems to make such sense, but why?
Asking questions of any kind – right ones or wrong ones – is a sign of true wisdom. I’ve heard people start off saying: “This is probably a dumb question, but . . .”. Of course, however, there is no such thing as a dumb question. The dumb part is in not asking the question – in assuming I already know what I need to know (or being embarrassed to reveal I don’t).
Once upon a time, when I was in my first or second year of college, a friend of my parents asked me: “And where do you plan to go to complete your education?” That was his way of asking what my plans were for graduate school. But even then my shock at his question told me that was his way of approaching life very differently from how I had been led to live it. My expectation then that my education would never be completed has been confirmed. These dear companions of curiosity, seeking, learning and asking questions have traveled with me all the way, and my expectation is that they will never leave me – and I hope that proves to be so.
Asking questions is also a sign of true humility. For me it is an affirmation that there is a power, a god, a truth (call it what you will) beyond me that I cannot fully understanding. In my experience the affirmation that “God is love” links arms with the words of “a love that exceeds human understanding.” Together they remind me that the Spirit, the people, the values and the experiences that I love, all that gives meaning to my life, is beyond my mastering or my comprehending. They indeed have mastered me, as I find myself bound to them and held by their enchanting presence in my life.
As I see it the problem with most settled answers is that life keeps changing – the currents of process keeps flowing. Which leads me to believe that what makes a questions a “right” one is that it is open ended. It doesn’t invite a Yes or a No – settling of the matter. Rather, it whets our curiosity, keeps us engaged, with mind and heart open to what is yet to be known. It keeps us alert to what Pastor John Robinson said to those who in 1620 were preparing to sail from England for what we call New England, that: “I am very confident the Lord has more truth and light yet to break forth from His holy word.”
So I am drawn to the sort of questions that rather than inviting us to “settle things,” open our minds and hearts for “more truth and light yet to break forth.” How marvelous to find that life is filled with mystery and with love far more than we can ever understand!
Rev. John Davies, Spiritual Care Chaplain
Central New Hampshire VNA & Hospice
Laconia & Wolfeboro Offices