Questions of Answers
Newborns come with questions; new parents are barraged with them. The infant may not be doing the asking at first, but in their own way their voice is heard and the questions pour forth. Why is he crying? What does he need? How do I do this? Of course, it's not long before the voice shifts and it is the child asking, the parent barraged with questions in a different way. Whether or not a kid is the type whose inquisitive nature leaves her parents exhausted, children as a rule seem to come with questions included.
Before the miraculous events at the Red Sea even took place, God instructed Moses to tell the Israelites that they were in the makings of what would become a festival. To a people yet bound in slavery, God commanded them to celebrate forever the things that were about to take place. And God added, "Then your children will ask, 'What does all this mean? What is this ceremony about?'And you will reply, 'It is the celebration of the LORD's Passover, for he passed over the homes of the Israelites in Egypt'" (Exodus 12:26-27).
Your children will ask. According to developmental psychologists, children ask questions because they are curious, because they are interested, because they want to know, and because they believe you have the answer. But perhaps questions also form on the lips of our youngest simply because they love to ask. Inquiry is an imperative part of a developing young life, and theirs is a culture of questions. Yet, as adults, we may all too easily make the mistake that answers are all they are looking for, hearing the question as a problem to solve with an answer. But a culture of answers is not the answer. While nerves and photocytes may explain the glow of the firefly, perhaps the question was more accurately probing the miracle of light. Particularly with children, we do well to remember that an answer can just as easily silence the wonder of inquiry as it can inform the curious.
A recent study on the faith and belief of today's youth laments the growing inarticulacy of students when it comes to talking about what they believe. The study relates the language of faith to something like a second language in our culture. Acquiring a second language requires listening to others speak, studying the lessons of language, and practicing it until your voice is found. The researchers were troubled as they realized how seldom teens found opportunity to practice talking about their faith. They were astonished by the number of kids who reported that this was the first time they had been asked by an adult what they believed. One replied as if he was caught off guard, "I don’t know. No one has ever asked me that before."
Such a study offers many angles for analysis. But I often wonder if, in the spirit of the information age, we boast in the promise of endless and instant answers, all the while failing to notice that we are too soon interrupting questions with explanation. Perhaps an abundance of answers has stifled our ability to probe deeply the truths and mysteries of faith and religion, whether in the end we would choose to ignore it or wrestle with it some more. We seldom look for opportunities to practice talking about the things we cease to wonder at.
To the children who first celebrated the Passover feast, inquiry must have been abounding with anticipation. The unleavened bread stood out from what they were used to eating, the lamb was prepared with extraordinary care, and the adults seemed marked by a hopeful sense of urgency. "What does all this mean?" would have come naturally out of eager mouths. Parents answered with the stir of recollection, "Today we celebrate the LORD's Passover, for he passed over our homes in Egypt and brought us out with his mighty hand." Their answer offered within it the weighted truth of the Exodus—and no doubt their eyes were filled with the boundless wonder of a child.
Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.