I'm not allowed to say I married up or my husband is the best of anything (I'll get a talking-to later on if I do.). But let me say this: I really respect him. He gets up every single morning to start his day with Scripture, journaling, and messaging various men with whom he walks. It is rare when he doesn't have the answer to any question I ask him (about politics, history, science, sports, or literature). He reads current events, theology, poetry. He reads about farming, he reads about prayer, and he reads people.
If you met him it would probably take a long time before you knew any of this about him. He never name drops whatever theologian he's reading or quotes poetry or statistics or how he knows western history like the back of his hand. In most conversations, he's the most quiet. And this bothers me.
It really, really, really bothers me. I feel irritated often in conversations with others because if they would shut up and let him talk, or even ask him a question, they'd probably learn a thing or two. I've learned more in my three years with him than most of my life beforehand. Most of what I've learned, though, isn't what he knows and has taught me, it's how he is.
The other afternoon he and I were having an impassioned conversation (as impassioned as two people with head colds and other maladies can be) about racism, policing, perspective, and the way we talk about all of these things in church culture. I voiced my frustration that he doesn't speak up about his perspective more when we're in the company of others—particularly those who seem to like the sound of their own voices. And he said this, "Sometimes I think asking questions is a better way to dialogue than just giving my perspective."
The thing about asking questions in conversations, though, is first, all it does is make the other people who are already talking talk more. Second, it doesn't leave much space for him to share his wisdom (which is solid gold if you ask me). And third, it can make most conversations feel unfinished because there's always another question.
The other thing about asking questions, though, is you learn and, if the questions are wise ones, the person you're asking them of learns too.
Is being the first to say something worth the cost of being wrong once another states his case?
Is asking for clarification again and again going to cost us something more than our pride?
Is asking an X-ray question of someone who might have a limited view on something only helpful for us as the asker, or could it be helpful for them as the speaker?
Do we really think our perspective is the most right? Or that we don't have more to learn?
Would we stake our lives on what we're saying?
Are we willing to say, "I don't know."?
Could asking a question instead of sharing a view, help us toward true reconciliation and peace?
Are we willing to leave more conversations unfinished knowing all of life is a process and none of us have arrived yet?
The folks I've learned the most from are people who've employed the Socratic method. They've asked questions, drilling down eventually to the deepest question, until I am gutted and vulnerable and see the inadequacy of my position or place in all its ugliness. And then those people have come down from their pulpit or platform or across the table, and stood beside me, saying, "I'm in this mess with you. Let's walk forward with more willingness to learn and hear and love and heal together."
My husband does this and he does it so well most people don't even notice he's doing it. They probably leave most conversations feeling heard and loved or maybe they leave thinking they showed him. I don't know. I do know I want to be more like him though. And more like the Christ from whom he learns.
Here are a few of the questions Jesus asked (and here are 135 of them):
Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? (Matthew 6:27)
Why are you so afraid? (Matthew 8:26)
Do you believe that I am able to do this? (Matthew 9:28)
Do you still not understand? (Matthew 16:9)
What is it you want? (Matthew 20:21)
What do you think? (Matthew 21:28)
Why are you thinking these things? (Mark 2:8)
What were you arguing about on the road? (Mark 9:33)
Where is your faith? (Luke 8:25)
What is your name? (Luke 8:30)
Who touched me? (Luke 8:45)