When Curiosity Threatens to “Kill”

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curiosity-killed-the-catHonestly, being a pastor can be weird. We exhort others to let the gospel “deconstruct” them by taking apart the deeply held beliefs and expectations they have about life, what life should be like and what they think they “deserve”. We graciously and gently push people growth because we know all too well how boredom can settle into the deep caverns of the heart. But sometimes it’s hard to speak of our own experiences bumping into Christ’s dismantling work.

I understand how important it is for pastors to refrain from “emotionally vomiting” on others or not using discernment in how much they share. However, there is a need for people to see and hear that we aren’t outside the bounds of Christ’s continuing redemptive work. The simple way to put it would be, if I ask people to open their hearts, listen to the Spirit, and then obey in the power of the Spirit, it should be the same in my own life whether it’s as moving to the mission field in Gary, Indiana (the inner city) or Jerusalem (which Kay and I have thought about occasionally) or as “small” as paying attention to a pesky ongoing habit in my heart. The point is simply that I/we are moving toward Christ in large and small ways expressing that we have no resources apart from Him. This is all radical work because it’s Him at work in me making me more like Christ.

As I was reading Thomas à Kempis earlier this week (if you have never read Imitation of Christ, pick up William Creasy’s accessible translation), he addresses a kind of curiosity that is destructive in our hearts. In a section of prayerful dialogues between the disciple and Jesus, he writes speaking as Christ:

“My friend, do not be inquisitive nor burden yourself with useless things. What is this or that affair to you? Your duty is to follow me.  What does it matter to you whether this person is so and so or whether that one says such and such?… Do not fall all over yourself in an effort to bask in the shadow of famous people nor to have a pack of acquaintances… These things breed distractions and great darkness in the heart…”

The ancient Christians called this “curiositas” (the cartoon is funny because that’s Curious George looking at a dead cat). It is not a healthy curiosity but an inquisitiveness into matters that were less than “noble”. What kinds of matters are these? It’s something like the intense desire to know details about social matters and people disconnected to the importance of your own spiritual development. This desire is “out of order” in that it rules a person and crowds out other good desires.

The other day as I was reading à Kempis’ words, I heard the “whisper” that it was time to take a break from Facebook. Frankly, the thought had crossed my mind during the summer, but this time it was clear. I don’t know about you but while I enjoy keeping up with close friends, I find myself constantly wanting to check on updates. It seems to be pointing to a deeper desire that, in honesty, I don’t want to be left out of being “in the know”. I want to stay “plugged in” with people and to keep current on what they are doing and thinking. While Facebook is a great tool to stay in touch with others, communicate with them, and in my case, to post ridiculous things, it’s fostered a curiositas, where this form of social media has created a habit in me to attach to others, rather than to Christ.

As a result of prayerful conversations with the Lord since then, in my case (so not everyone else), the Lord’s voice was clear and for the balance of the year, I’ll be taking a break from Facebook. I will still be blogging and these will be posted automatically on my Facebook wall, but I won’t be checking for messages or people’s updates. You can still get ahold of me through email or if you have my cell phone number and it’s important, you can text me.

2 thoughts on “When Curiosity Threatens to “Kill”

  1. brian61067

    This is really good Jon. And convicting. I did a one month “fast” from Facebook back in January and it was life-giving for me to unplug from the constant pull of social media.

    I’ve found myself wanting to keep up with the latest controversy/scandal/new idea/controversial book/etc, from the Christian blogosphere, feeling like I needed to be in “in the know” on everything when I finally realized that most of the people in my congregation have no idea who ____ is (insert your favorite celebrity pastor) or what book they’ve written. More and more I just want to “do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with God” (MIcah 6:8).

    I think the vice of curiositas has made a comeback in this age of twitter/Facebook/blogs. Over the last twelve months, I’ve put a lot more focused attention on flesh-and-blood face-to-face relationships in my everyday world and it has been so very life giving. Much more so than scrolling down my facebook feed.

    Hope you and Kay are well my friend.

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