"So, I am wondering, what brought you here today?" "How are you going?" "What is happening in your life at the moment?" These questions are the foundation of the work I do. They are open questions that draw my client in, encourage them to take about themselves, to be open and honest. In asking these questions, I am communicating curiosity and interest. A desire to know my client and to understand their perspective of the world. These questions are called "open questions" and generally start with the words "who", "what", "where", "when" or "how". Unlike closed questions that only require one word responses, open questions encourage the responder to draw their own ideas out, to reflect and think.
When reading the bible, it is fairly obvious that Jesus was a fan of open questions. For example in John 4, Jesus talks to the Samaritan woman, and by using an open question "Will you give me a drink?" (John 4:7) Jesus drew her into a conversation regarding her life and ultimately towards God. Pretty powerful stuff, right? And theoretically, pretty easy.
However, as we have discovered over the past few weeks, asking questions about religion, God, faith and then subsequently using those questions to talk about your faith is potentially risky and difficult. In the modern era, there is a strong stigma against talking about your faith and a fear about how others will perceive you (or me, truthfully). Ultimately, it is much easier to take the safe road and just avoid the topic.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
One of my favourite poems is Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken", quoted above. Frost describes a time where he was faced with the choice between two paths to take. Frost recognises that both paths are quite similar (although one might be have "a better claim"), and that they cannot go back once they have started down a path. And yet, although these paths are similar, the Frost states that by taking the path less travelled "that has made all the difference". Now, I am aware that in many ways as Christians we have already chosen the road less travelled (and aren't we the lucky ones!). However, in these current circumstances, I am more interested in how the poem can be an apt metaphor for whether we chose to take the path of discussing our faith when the opportunity arises, or chose not to. The truth is, at the moment when we are faced with the opportunity, there isn't a major difference between the two paths. it is only as you go down the journey of talking about God, about being curious about another person's beliefs that you start to see the difference. And the choice you make ultimately changes and influences both you and the other person. It's also quite confronting when you think about it. How a small decision can make a major difference.
OK. But how do I take the road less travelled?
So, you have decided to take the more challenging, less travelled path. That's great, but what does that actually mean? How do you actually do it - or even recognise when you are faced with that choice?
For me personally, generally I know when I should be taking the path less travelled when there is this pesky little voice in my head telling me to do so. I mean, you have got to love the Holy Spirit right? We know the Holy Spirit abides in us (John 14:17) and that He communicates with us (John 16:13). So a great place to start is by asking the Holy Spirit to guide us in seeing opportunities to engage and connect with others.
The second step is knowing what to say. And that is when curiosity starts. It can be as straight forward as offering, "can I pray for you?" when you hear someone struggling. Or just simply asking about their day, how they are going, and what is happening in their life?
Thirdly, its about listening to their response - their choice of words, the areas of of opportunity. It's then turning to God -- "Lord, guide me in what to say" before lastly, taking the giant leap of faith and opening up and embracing that less travelled path.
Jesus asked "who do you say that I am?" (Matthew 16:15) When you walk down this less travelled path, could you use something similar? Or alternatively, in the right situation - "what is your view of God?" And then there are the more concrete questions, like: "would you be interested in joining me for church/life group?"; and, the altar call at the Sunday Service, "would you like to make Jesus your Lord and Saviour"? In all cases, open questions that require taking a leap of faith and trusting God. And remember, like the parable of the Sower (Mark 4:4 - 8) our job is to only scatter the seed, it is not our responsibility to make sure that it takes root and grows.
And so, in our last week of the series; my (open) question's to you are - who are you going to start connecting with? What are you going to say when the opportunity arises? Where are you going to look for these opportunities? When will you do this? And lastly, how are you going demonstrate vulnerability, openness and curiosity with others?
Walking the road less travelled with you!
- Written by Ashleigh Crosilla