Rev. Joel L. Tolbert
Pastor’s Perspective: Curiosity Killed the Cat
After graduating from engineering school, I began working in a quality lab. We ran accelerated tests on lots of different products to see when and where failure would occur.
Our goal was to find the weaknesses so we could improve the design on our next iteration. Some engineers didn’t like to see me coming. My clipboard and printout were about to show them a problem in their design, which to them revealed a problem in their thinking or choices.
I remember one Design Engineer who got pretty defensive. He complained that it was the best anyone could have done, given the design requirements, budget, and time. It felt like he was mad at me for bringing him the truth in the form of test results.
I also remember my Engineering Manager. He was curious, tenacious, passionate to know what we had learned from my tests. He would ask lots of questions. He wanted to look at the disassembled parts. He had years of experience beyond me but often asked my opinion on what I thought was going on. He would not stop wondering, questioning, imagining until we had a few possibilities for why and a few solutions for each possibility.
Have you ever had someone tell you or show you a problem or a failure, and all you could feel was anger or defensiveness?
In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, from Matthew 5-7, I envision Jesus coming among us with his clipboard and test results.
“Okay, yall. You thought you had it all figured out and that you had a flawless design. But I’m here to tell you; there are some major miscalculations here.”
Jesus goes through page after page of places where we, humanity, misunderstand. We make mistakes. We think we know what God means and what God wants, but we miscalculate. We make bad assumptions.
In the crowd were quite a few defensive folks. They had been the designers and practitioners of a religion that had been passed down for hundreds of years. Then some new kid comes around with a clipboard and has the audacity to tell them they’ve been doing it wrong, and they’ve misunderstood? How dare he? Who does he think he is, the son of God or something?
Others in the crowd were curious. They, too had designed and practiced ancient religion for their whole lives. But somehow, when this young man showed them a different, better way, they were curious. They wanted to know more. They wanted to have a few options for how to do things better next time.
Our goal as a church of Jesus is to stay curious, not defensive. We come here to church to hear Jesus, the scriptures, Holy Spirit suggest ways we could be more faithful in our lives, in our homes or relationships, in the church, in the surrounding community, in our country, or the world. All of these areas are open for Jesus’ critique and invitation to do better next time. These areas are on the table when Jesus, scriptures, and Holy Spirit are nudging us to grow and learn and have faith.
Our goal is not to be perfect. Only Jesus is perfect. However, our goal is always to be improving, getting better. Only God can bring in the Kingdom of God, and God will do that someday. However, for now, for some strange reason, God has invited us to inch all things forward toward justice, peace, righteousness, and love. God does that by showing us where our will, actions, words are not yet in sync with God’s will.
Some say curiosity killed the cat. But I say it was defensiveness, not curiosity, that killed the Christ. Let’s be curious. Curiosity is a sign that Christ is risen and is still working among us and through us.
Blessing, Laughter and Loving be yours!
Rev. Joel Tolbert