Have you ever been afraid to ask a question because you might look "stupid"? Laura Flanders leads us forward to courageous asking.
The Most Important Question
By Laura Flanders
Transformative learning involves the courage to embrace the "feeling of stupidity." How many of us fear to look stupid when asked a question or when asking a question? We love to be correct, and when are not we can experience shame. We feel exposed when we allow others to see not only what needs to be learned, but also unlearned.
I regularly see seminary students walking through this process of unlearning as I oversee the mentoring curriculum at Denver Seminary. Courage in the face of vulnerability is essential in the transformation process. Fear is a common human condition, so some students choose courage as the focus of their personal development. This process isn't unique to seminary students ...
In Mark 10, we see where James and John needed to experience unlearning as they boldly approached Jesus.
"Teacher," they said, "we want you to do for us whatever we ask."
"What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked.
Of all his questions, I believe this is Jesus' most important one for us today. Why? Because our answer often reveals our dysfunctional view of Jesus. James and John thought Jesus was to be an earthly King, so they asked him for the wrong thing:
"Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory," they answered.
"You don't know what you are asking," Jesus said.
Immediately following this, the blind man Bartimaeus was asked the same question by Jesus, "What do you want me to do for you?" His response is quite different: "Rabbi, I want to see." Even with no physical sight, Bartimaeus had the spiritual sight to see Jesus as Messiah and had faith in his healing power.
We might think, "Oh stupid James and John." But I think Jesus was pleased by their courage. I imagine Jesus thinking, "Good for you James and John! In all your ignorance, you courageously approached me. Yes, you are off-base. But let me help you unlearn one thing so you can eventually see the truth about me."
I want to commend James and John for being courageous. I want to congratulate them for being willing to get it all wrong. Certainly, they might have felt stupid when Jesus said, "You don't know what you are asking." But by interacting with Jesus, they were able to hear the truth.
As we are in the midst of Lent, heading toward Easter, might I suggest that we be as courageous as James, John and Bartimaeus? Be a bold student. Let Jesus ask his most important question:
"What do you want me to do for you?"
You might immediately give a great answer. But, like many of us, you may not. While Jesus will help you get to the right answer, he won't shame you. Stay engaged with the One who loves you. Be willing to embrace any feelings of stupidity. Doing so will eventually help you to truly see Jesus and receive your truer need.
Laura Flanders is the Director of Training and Mentoring at Denver Seminary. She received an MA (Leadership) from Denver Seminary and a BA (Speech Communication) from Seattle Pacific University. Previous to her time at Denver Seminary, Laura spent her career in national industry non-profit management in the area of leadership development and training. She received awards of excellence from the American Society of Association Executives for the creation of national leadership development programs. Laura and her husband Dale served in pastoral ministry for twenty-four years, the last ten in church planting. She also consults for businesses, non-profits and churches in the Denver area.