Curiosity is one of the most important spiritual disciplines you’ve never heard of. That’s right, curiosity.
Curiosity is wired into us. If you’ve ever fallen in love, typed something in a Google search box, watched the news, opened the Bible, showed up for worship or scrolled through social media, then you’re curious.
Put simply, curiosity is the practice of asking questions, paying attention to and listening for the answer and having the courage to act on that answer.
Easy enough, right? So why aren’t more people curious?
Our world doesn’t value curiosity.
Curiosity, you see, is a threat to power, order and control, the central pieces of almost every society and institution, even the church. And, unfortunately, even good Christian folk can flip a switch when you challenge the system. That’s why the prophets were killed. That’s why Jesus was crucified.
If you choose to be led by curiosity, to ask questions, you will face resistance.
So, why aspire to live curiously? Why risk the resistance and negative labeling?
Curiosity is freedom. Curious people aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo. They have fewer allegiances, in other words. They aren’t enslaved to the “security” provided by existing power structures or the “comfort” that comes from a risk-free existence.
As a Christian, I believe curiosity opens our heart and mind to the Spirit. As the apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:17, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
But it doesn’t stop there. There are many more reasons why curiosity matters.
Curiosity allows you to engage people with different perspectives.
Today, we’re so used to living in echo chambers that any worldview aside from ours falls on deaf ears. And with each passing day we become increasingly convinced that our perspective is the perspective and decreasingly tolerant of anyone who asks us to see things through their lens.
Curiosity subverts this silliness. Motivated by humility and shared humanity, curious people seek out different perspectives and engage people with a different worldview.
They’re not interested in correcting as much as connecting. This is key. If you ask a question for any other reason than to listen to the answer, it leads to more skepticism and cynicism.
Do this enough, your heart and mind will become pregnant with empathy, and empathy gives birth to love and unity, two forces that can radically transform our communities and our world.
Curiosity opens your heart and mind to the marginalized and oppressed.
Almost a year ago, we brought our daughter home from India, culminating a four-year journey. We decided to adopt because my wife was curious. She felt those inner promptings from the Spirit. She was willing to ask what seemed at the time to be a ridiculous question: Could God be calling us to adopt? Together we prayed. We listened for an answer.
I don’t recall one moment that sealed it, just a growing conviction that this was from God.
We decided to act, unaware of the resistance we would face in the days to come.
Had my wife not been curious, we would not have adopted. Both Tiffani and I would have a lesser view of and love for God. And most importantly, one more child would grow up without a family. Our adoption journey was filled with both grief and elation, disappointment and celebration. But the whole journey transformed our lives.
And the whole thing was sparked by curiosity.
Curiosity gives your marriage energy and excitement.
When you and your spouse fell in love, you talked on the phone for hours. Deep conversations were plentiful. What happened?
Familiarity, an enemy of curiosity, happened.
Marriage needs curiosity to be healthy. You can’t allow familiarity to drown out passion and excitement. Start today asking your spouse some questions. Ask him about his day. Ask her about her relationship with God. And pay attention to their answers.
Curiosity will prevent fear from running your life.
Irish poet James Stephens once said, “Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will.” Fear poses as a big, scary thing hovering over you with a never-ending list of reasons why you shouldn’t step out of your comfort zone.
If you take that new job, you will fail. If you give your heart to him, he will break it. You will lose everything if you tell someone about your addiction.
Curiosity has just enough naiveté to respond with, Are you sure? Even then, you’re not guaranteed to beat fear. You must continue moving forward. But you’re guaranteed to be defeated if you don’t start there. Overcoming fear begins with small steps and subtle questions—But what if I don’t fail? Won’t I lose everything if I keep my addiction a secret?—not with one huge leap or a single brash statement.
These are the first steps, and every subsequent step moves you closer to the beast. As you press in, you begin to see fear for what it is, a big talking thing with no real power over you.
Curiosity gives you the courage to challenge fear and eventually expose it.
Curiosity builds resilience.
Resilience is an important trait for growing and persevering in faith.
Curiosity aids resilience in two ways. First, curious people are used to no. Rejection and failure don’t derail them. Second, curious people aren’t enslaved to certainty. They don’t claim their perspective as gospel.
Last year, I went through the most difficult season of my life. I lost a job in a humiliating way. I was jobless for a year. A close family member committed suicide. Our first adopted daughter died weeks after we were matched with her.
Some days the darkness was tangible. I could feel it. Curiosity sustained me. Even in the hardest moments, I believed my suffering had a purpose. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I trusted God would reveal it.
Curiosity can and will transform your life. I pray God gives you the desire to cultivate and the courage to act on it.
Grace and peace, friends.
Frank Powell is lead writer and editor for the blog at Bayside Church in Granite Bay, California. He is also a husband, father and Jesus follower. Occasionally he plays golf. Often he drinks coffee. You can find more of his content at Blog.BaysideOnline.com.