What comes to mind when you hear the word invasive?
I think of the weeds in the grass out the door of our townhouse. The green plant spreads under the soil and overtakes the healthy grass. It’s invasive. Growing mint also comes to mind. If not cared for properly, it seizes entire gardens. Gardeners bemoan the struggle to rid their garden plots of this fragrant herb.
Earlier this month in honor of the Fourth of July, I watched the two Independence Day movies with my husband and our daughter. So, when I hear the word invasive, I think of the aliens in the movie who endeavored to conquer the world with their invasive mind techniques and military prowess. The word invasive often suggests harm or ill-intent.
Someone close to me called me invasive. I found myself ruminating on this descriptor. It troubled me. I experienced sadness and dismay. Why? Technically, to be invasive is “to spread undesirably or harmfully, or to intrude on another person’s thoughts or privacy.” It’s negative. Why did this word feel like a dagger to my soul?
As I thought, prayed and talked to God, I realized my sorrow arose from the realization that I desired a deeper relationship than the other individual. I wanted to know deeply and be known in like manner. Though I enjoy asking questions, something I learn from reading about Jesus in the Gospels, unfortunately, even just a few questions were too much inquiry for this dear soul.
Jesus asked a lot of questions – Do you want to get well? What do you want me to do for you? Who touched me? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life? Why are you terrified? Why do you harbor evil thoughts? Do you believe I can do this? Who is my mother? Why do you doubt? Could you not watch for me one brief hour? Who do you say I am? Do you love me? These questions reflect the inquisitive nature of Jesus. He actually asked over 300 questions. Many were personal and private. Desiring connection, He used questions to tap into one of humankind’s deepest needs: to know and be known.
In my journey ponding the word invasive and some of the questions Jesus asked, I found myself wondering, why He used questions? What was the purpose behind Jesus’ questions? Why were questions His primary teaching tool? A limitless number of possible reasons for the use of questions bubbles to the surface. Questions invite relationship and discovery, yet when they peel back our layers to the core, two foundational realizations come into view for each of us: Who am I? And who is God?
The root of inquiry, then, is to know ourselves, others, and God. We ask questions so we can know more deeply.
Questions can be uncomfortable, leading us to examine motivations and attitudes. Those that only invite short and simple questions halt the journey of life instead of summoning vulnerability, risk, and awareness.
Adam and Eve in the Garden were asked: “Where are you?” (see Genesis 3:9) I wonder if the first man and woman thought of God as invasive, asking too personal a question? God knew where they were. The question aimed at helping them recognize where they were, and what they had done. They were defensive and a barrier erupted between themselves and God. Nevertheless, posing the question opened doors for communication and the possibility for deeper relationship.
Questions also elicit excitement and wonder. When people open up and share stories and experiences, it magnifies God’s redemptive movements and fosters transformation. As conversations unfold they reveal passions, dreams, authenticity, healing, and expectancy. A glimpse of this emerges in Jesus’ encounter with the crowd in Luke 8. A humble, broken seeker hears a probing question. The interchange leads to a vulnerable confession that is met with miraculous healing and unimaginable peace.
As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”
While God intends growth and relationship through questions, Satan tries to use questions to create barriers, defensiveness, isolation, and pessimism. Instead of allowing questions to open space for deeper relationship, accusations of “getting too personal” or “not minding one’s own business” abound. Consequently, walls form and isolate, assumptions run rampant, and roots of bitterness and fear embed in the soil of the heart. When this occurs we remain unknown and lack community.
So what will you do the next time God stirs your heart with a probing question? Perhaps, take a deep breath and realize, God desires depth with you.
What if someone asks you a curious question? If you experience defensiveness, ask yourself, why? Are you trying to protect yourself? Are you afraid of being truly known or accepted? Does pride cloud your freedom to interact with honesty or authenticity? Understand that other people may want to know you better too.
The question represents an invitation for relationship, a quest to know and be known.
Lean into connection with God and people by asking questions. Pose open ended questions to promote conversation and more thorough knowing. Ask, not to add your own commentary or analysis, but to know the other person’s heart more keenly. Let God teach you to listen well and receive heartfelt words.
As I muse further about Jesus’ use of questions, I discover an invasive aspect to them. He wants His love to invade every corner of our lives, but He only comes where invited. I must start by putting out the “welcome” mat before Jesus, who stands at the door of my heart knocking (see Revelation 3:20). Opening the door may be an uncomfortable response, but His questions always aim at my good.
Join me in letting the invasive love of God into all aspects of life including our interactions with people.
Think the best of others; love people where they are; spur one another on in their faith journey; live authentically and deeply. Ask and receive questions with grace, humility and hope. And if others will not invite you in, patiently stand at the door and knock.
Drips from the Word: Muse about these Bible verses. Let these truths impact your living.
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. 30 Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.” Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.
Splashes from the Spigot: Drink from deep wells. Check out these suggested readings.
Stan Guthrie. All That Jesus Asks: How His Questions Can Teach and Transform Us. Ada, MI, 2010.
Christy Clarke. Table Topics Game: Questions to Start Great Conversations. Commerce City, CA 2004.