A sense of wonder is the feeling that envelops my childhood memories. Discovery, awe and time “lost”- in thought, enjoying nature, listening to music. A full life was taking things in- learning, exploring, experiencing. And then I grew up and a successful life was putting out- checking off to do lists and being productive. It didn’t take me long to realize that to “grow up” didn’t leave much time and space for those things my childhood were characterized by and I assumed that was okay because I had to mature. Then I had kids and I realized I pretty much was just “doing”, there wasn’t a lot of “being”. My sense of who I was pretty well depleted- I had been so focused on the putting out that adult life and motherhood required that I hadn’t been investing anything back in. As my boys grew and became more aware of the world around them, I saw that childlike sense of wonder in them and I wanted to make sure it was cultivated. The best way to teach is by example- I wanted my children to be life long learners so I needed to be learning my whole life long.
A rich and intriguing book that helped me to flesh out the why and how of staying curious in life and even how that applies to and affects my christian life was The Curious Christian by Barnabas Piper. Barnabas is the son of well known pastor and author, John Piper, but he gives the credit for his sense of curiosity and thus the content of his book to his mother. This made my Mama heart smile and was an encouragement to dive into this book with abandon. I loved that Piper began with the side effects of the Uncurious- binary thinking, missed connections, depleted friendships and love lost; Things we’d all rather stay away from. The books premise is that a sense of wonder and curiosity enrich every part of life. “In the end I want you to see that curiosity is more than a mere habit. It is a discipline, a skill, a habit- one that will expand your life in magnificent, if subtle, ways.”
Piper starts out by tackling the very predicament I struggled with in “growing up”- leaving behind childhood pleasures for adult responsibilities. He poses the question, “What if we leave behind childishness but not childlike?”. he then reminds us that discovery is part of our calling by God- to explore both His word and His world. We can and should always be searching for Truth in the world and in the people around us. By being curious, we will constantly be learning, always be in awe and ever be deepening our relationships. Piper touches on how the best education makes us ever-curious people and solidified some of my reasons for teaching my own children at home so I can share in their pursuit of Truth, Goodness and Beauty.
I appreciated Piper’s ideas on how a spirit of curiosity, coupled with the fruits of the spirit, could really make the Church a more vibrant and engaging entity. “Curiosity in action will lead us to ask questions of those who we perceive as different that allow them to speak for themselves and express the beauty and strength of their culture.” Being truly curious means we truly ask and want to see before we judge. I thought it was balanced and wise that Piper included that while “curiosity did not kill the Christian” there are also boundaries to where we allow our curiosity to lead us. We can be a person of curiosity and conviction by “being willing to to listen arguments carefully and process them honestly, but do not move from a conviction without ample reason to do so.” He also makes a good point about how grace and wonder allow us to maintain optimism about people while being realistic. We can be curious to know who someone is and assume the best and worst about them simultaneously by being wise yet gracious.
Piper also goes beyond the theoretical and philosophical and offers some practical advice on being curious that I thought was very helpful. He challenges up to consider what media and the like we are “inputting”. He offers some questions to ask ourselves such as “How does this shape my life?” and “Is this trustworthy?”. In the section, “On being cultured”, Piper shares suggestions on cultivating an appetite and appreciation for quality literature, music, nature and science. He hits on so many interesting thoughts on such a variety of topics that it’s hard to even scratch the surface of the substance of this book, but I thought the last chapter offered up some solid points for living a curious life: Be Interested, Be Humble, Look, Listen, Record, Ask, Go and Explore, Try Things, Read and Always Come Back to Scripture. “Curiosity is about God and for God. It is an expression of worship and it honors Him by exploring the depths and breadth of His creation.”
This is a book I will be periodically be rereading to remind myself of the worthiness of the pursuit of Truth and the beauty in Wonder. I hope I never stop learning and being in awe. I hope I maybe rub off on my kids a little, like they have immensely rubbed off on me. I hope one day my children each have a lively spirit of curiosity and that I am a part of some of the memories that cultivated it.
Thanks to B&H Publishing for providing this book to review.