In the third of 4 blog articles for i4CC Trevor Hudson shares some reflections around how to engage more intentionally in ‘sacred conversations.’ (Excerpted and adapted with permission from his book, DISCOVERING GOD’S WILL FOR YOUR LIFE -A User’s Guide to Discernment to be published by Struik Christian Media in November 2021.)
Has it ever struck you how often Jesus asked questions? It was a massive moment for me when I realised just how often in the gospels Jesus asked questions. In my early years of following Jesus, he had been introduced to me as the ultimate answer man. Certainly, he does answer some of the most important questions we ask. However, as we follow him through the gospels, Jesus is also the great questioner. Surveys tells us that, while he was asked 183 questions in the gospels, he only directly answered 3 of them. However, he asked 307 questions. He asked almost 100 questions for every answer he gave!
Here is an example of Jesus asking a question: Go back again to that resurrection encounter with those two pilgrims walking along the Emmaus Road. They were on their way home after the traumatic events that happened on that first Good Friday. Their dreams were shattered when Jesus was crucified. They had pinned their hopes on him to be the long-awaited Messiah who would liberate their nation. When he was killed, their hopes were killed as well. As they walked along, in despair and dejected, a Stranger joined them. It was the risen Jesus, but they did not recognise him. He asked them a question, “What are you talking about as you walk along?”
If you read the rest of the story, you will see that this question opened the door to an ongoing discussion between the Stranger and the two pilgrims. It led to them inviting the Stranger home with them and recognising him to be the risen Jesus. This is the power of a good question. It can open the door to the kind of conversation that enables us to discern how God may be present and active in our lives. We see this happening repeatedly in the gospel encounters between Jesus and others around him. He had a wonderful way of drawing people into a deeper reflection of their lives through the questions he asked. He was the master of knowing how to initiate what we are calling ‘sacred conversations’.
There seem to be two categories of questions that we can ask. One kind restricts the conversation. These questions can block further discussion, or make the other person uncomfortable, or put them on the spot, and or invade their private space. They seldom communicate genuine interest, concern, and compassion. Usually, they look for a yes or no answer.
The other kind expands the conversation. These questions invite new possibilities, enlarge the other person’s arena of exploration, and help them put what is deepest within their heart into words. They communicate our desire to understand and learn more about them. They often begin with ‘how’, ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘when’, and ‘in what ways…’ We could call this second category, ‘wondering questions’. They make possible those sacred conversations that shed light on how God could be leading us. They invite thoughtfulness, facilitate reflection, and encourage discussion.
Really good conversational partners know how to ask the ‘wondering question’. Besides listening well to the struggles and stirrings of our heart, they also can ‘wonder’ with us about the meaning of what we are talking about. “I wonder how you feel about what has happened?” “I wonder what your options are in this decision?” “I wonder where you see this path taking you?” “I wonder when you feel alive and energised during the day?” “I wonder in what ways this path will stretch you and invite you to grow?” These kinds of questions get us to pause, to reflect on our lives, and to discern where God may be present and active in our inner and outer lives.
(If you missed the previous posts in this series you can find them here: Part 1 https://www.i4cc.co.za/post/the-importance-of-sacred-conversations-for-discerning-god-s-will-part-1-4