October 10, 2017
I never thought that at age 26, with an endless variety of movies, shows, and entertainment at my fingertips because of the internet, that I would end up watching so much of the show Curious George. And yet, here I am. I currently rent a room from the VanderKlock family in West Olive. Kevin is the director of Camp Geneva, which is where I met him and his wife Tina; they have allowed me to rent a room from them for the last few years. The best part of living with the VanderKloks however, is their children. They have a five-year-old daughter named Lilia and a seven-year-old named Elyana. Having not grown up with any younger siblings or sisters, I’m learning a lot these days. My life is awash in Disney princes’ facts, missing lego pieces and a seemingly endless army of naked Barbies. Those two are also the reason my main form of entertainment right now is kids shows like Curious George and my personal favorite, The Magic School Bus.
While these shows are simple and mostly ridiculous, they work because they get at the simple truth that we learn through curiosity. We grow from exploration. We gain understanding by asking questions about parts of the world that we don’t yet know. I wonder what it would look like for the world to regain this posture. A posture of curiosity. It’s no secret that we live in a largely divided world and particularly a divided country. We are divided along political, ideological, ethnic, and religious lines. These are complex issues that I don’t pretend to know how to solve, but I believe a lot of the problems stem from fear. Humans have a natural fear of the unknown, or the “other” and when we fear things, we separate from them. This only leads to a cycle of unknowing, fear, and division that creates a bigger and bigger gap between “us” and “them” with seemingly no way to bridge it. But what if instead of approaching that which we don’t know or understand with fear, we approached it with curiosity? What if instead of pulling back, we leaned in and asked questions?
One of my favorite authors, John Philip Newell says this:
“Too often in the past, our approach to truth has been to assume that we have it and others do not. Consequently, we have thought that our role is to tell people what to believe. We are being invited instead into a new humility, to serve the holy wisdom that is already stirring in the hearts of people everywhere, the growing awareness of earth’s interrelatedness and sacredness.”
There’s a lot in that quote so I want to take a moment to look at it in two parts. The first is about our past approach to truth. To this day, we have explored less than 5% of the ocean. That means that most of the world is unexplored and unknown. It remains a mystery. The number of things that we do not know vastly outweighs the amount that we do know. I believe the same is true about our knowledge of God and truth. If God is really God and is the ground of all being then we still have a lot to learn. 1 Corinthians 13:12 says, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” I believe as Christians we have some grasp of truth and some understanding of God, but we also have to know that the picture is not complete. There is an infinite amount of truth to be explored and understood, and that knowledge can come from anywhere and anyone.
In the second part of the quote, Newell invites us into something he calls a “new humility”. As Christians, we believe that God made all people in His image. Every person is a reflection of the creator and carries something of the divine background in them. This means that every single person, regardless of background, age, ethnicity, or belief has something to teach us about God. What if we approached people with the idea that because of their very nature, we can learn from them? Wouldn’t we have more questions? Wouldn’t we listen more closely? Wouldn’t we lean in, not for the sake of being able to tell them what we think, but for the sake of seeing how God could teach us through them? Matthew 7:7-8 says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” Jesus is encouraging us to ask, seek, and knock at the door of God. If we believe that something of God is present in the people around us, shouldn’t we be asking and seeking and knocking at their doors as well?
We live in a divided world and sometimes we even see it within our own families. For me, I know Thanksgiving is coming up and my family gatherings can be tense if the wrong subject comes up. We have different ways of looking at the world and there are some people in my family I’m not sure I know how to connect with anymore. But I hope I have the courage to be curious. To ask questions, not for the sake of being able to tell them why they are wrong, but to really know and understand them. It won’t fix the problem immediately, but I want to live in a world where we are at least trying to build bridges. Jesus consistently spent time with the outsiders. He lived life with and asked questions of the tax collectors, Samaritans, widows, sinners and “others”. I want to do the same.
High School Director