IVP Books, 192 pages
Reviewed by Emily Berman D’Andrea
We often hear quotes and platitudes about change: change is not for the faint hearted, change happens, it’s all about change, embrace change, live into the change… you get the idea. I think these sayings that get passed around on social media (and in former days hung on guidance counselor walls) lead us to the conclusion that change is inevitable and change is one thing you and I need to figure out how to live with and deal with.
In “Becoming Curious,” Casey Tygrett offers a novel approach for how you and I can live with, confront and think about the inevitable change that happens in life. Tygrett likens the process of change as similar to the process of becoming curious. Neither of these processes is for the faint-hearted. For the moment, let’s just get rid of the word “change” and exchange it for “curious” or “curiosity.” Tygrett says, “Let your curiosity be a good thing, a blessing, even if it doesn’t feel good to you at the moment. [Allow yourself to] rest with the curious rabbi Jesus, who asked more questions than he answered.” Tygrett tallies Jesus’ questions to 183 and marvels at the way Jesus “chose to ask instead of tell” when he engaged people.
The inspiration for writing “Becoming Curious” came about when the author modeled his personal practice after that of Jesus (choosing to ask instead of tell) and spent time ever day for 40 days writing questions that came to mind. This practice is the first of 10 different “journal exercises” Tygrett offers at the conclusion of each chapter. Each exercise is focused on helping the reader find ways to cultivate curiosity. Tygrett suggests that the book be read with a group who will engage the exercises and practices together.
I can understand how studying this book with a small group would be beneficial and rich for all involved. Questions are posed that are more satisfactorily answered when tossed around with others. Each chapter is dense with questions that relate to a Scripture passage. In chapter six (“A Question of Others”), the question “Who is my neighbor?” is probed and turned over in many different ways. For example, “Are we afraid to know our neighbors because we’d have to accept and engage in their messy lives?” is proposed to wrestle over as a group.
The chapters stand on their own so if someone were to miss a session they could easily pick up with the next chapter. Since I was not reading the book with a small group (and since each chapter is self-contained) it took me a while to finish. I would put the book down, probe the questions and not resume again for weeks. When I finally reached chapter 10 I discovered the most helpful and new (to me) insight about change. This was not platitudinous nor had I seen it on any guidance counselor’s poster: “Crucifixion, resurrection and ascension are the three key moves we need to keep in mind as we walk through change.” You will have to read the book to find out the associated questions that engage that wisdom. I’m still mulling over what this means. It makes me (to quote Alice in Wonderland) “curiouser and curiouser.”
Emily Berman D’Andrea is the associate pastor at Lewinsville Presbyterian Church in McLean, Virginia, where she works with small groups, deacons, Stephen Ministers and leads a contemplative ministry.