Curiosity is the hallway that leads to the doors of adventure and discovery. I haven’t lost much of the curiosity I had as a child. I consider myself one of the more fortunate ones.
In some ways, curiosity is what drives me. “What’s on the other side of that hill?” “Where does this road go?” “What is that new construction going to be?” These and a thousand other questions bombard my mind every day. I will die with some of them unanswered.
But curiosity has been my strong suit on the mission field as I try to figure out how to insert the Gospel into different people groups. “Why does this tribe have certain body markings?” “What’s the significance of their jewelry?” “Why do they build their houses on stilts?” The more I discover about a people group, the closer I am to building relationships that lead to an understanding of the one true God.
Children are born with a tremendous capacity for curiosity, a gift from God. Back when I was all of five years old, my next-door neighbor (at seven, he was much more advanced in the ways of the world than I) showed me his new magnifying glass. I had never seen one up close and thought it was incredible that you could use this instrument to examine things in such detail. And then he showed me its hidden magic. With this tiny circle of glass, you could harness the rays of the sun, focus them into one spot and create fire. To a five-year-old boy, this discovery ranked right up there with the Fountain of Youth, the Ark of the Covenant or the Rosetta stone.
My friend burned a nice crispy hole through a piece of newspaper, but I wanted to try the trick myself. My mom’s magnifying glass and some crumpled newspaper in hand, I went behind his garage. I moved the glass back and forth, finding the optimal distance to produce the desired effect. A little hole appeared along with puffs of smoke and a small flame. Suddenly, the entire piece of newspaper ignited. I watched in horror as the garage caught fire and burned to the ground.
Since that day, I have been banned from ever touching a magnifying glass again. This may explain why my favorite songs growing up were “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel, “Light my Fire” by José Feliciano and “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor. Yes, curiosity is a gift from God, but the way we use it is not always a good thing.
I now have the opportunity to nurture my grandson’s God-given curiosity. Titus came over to our house last night, and I had the fertilizer spreader out in the backyard. He had never seen one before, and I noticed his curiosity as he examined it. It has a bucket and two wheels, and when you walk, the fertilizer drops through a hole and hits spinning blades that throw it out across the lawn. Grasping the handles, he started pushing it around so he could hear and feel the blades spinning. While I mowed, my grandson spent the rest of the afternoon discovering the wonders of a fertilizer spreader.
The world has a way of either robbing us of our God-given curiosity or using it to lead us down the road of destruction. Drug dealers and pornography sellers get children hooked by using their natural gift of curiosity for personal gain. But when you teach children how to harness their curiosity, you have placed them on the path of discovery and growth.
We know from Scripture that Jesus was curious. When Mary and Joseph found Him with the teachers in the temple in Luke 2:46, He was “listening and asking questions.” In fact, the Gospels reveal that Jesus was always asking questions. He wanted to know.
My mom not only encouraged me to wonder what was on the other side of the hill but to be curious about the things of God. Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, work to nurture your child’s curiosity. You do that by:
1. Regaining your own sense of curiosity and exploration.
2. Turning questions into quests. All children are natural questioners.
3. Providing tools of exploration. Buy them a magnifying glass or let them play with a fertilizer spreader. Just don’t let them go behind the garage alone.
4. Turning off the TVs, iPads and cell phones. Let them use their minds to wander through books, board games or an empty cardboard box.
If I had asked my mom, “Which came first: the chicken or the egg?” She probably would have taken me to a restaurant, ordered both and waited with me to see which one arrived first.
Whose curiosity will you nurture today?