holy curiosity: how are you going to change the world? it's not what you think (ashley hales).

I know, I know: EVERY week I tell you that I am just beyond-delighted for today’s guest post writer. But today, you guys, I am, I am, I am! Meet Ashley Hales: if you don’t already know her, she is someone you want to follow. She’s also become a dear friend of mine in the internet-writing world, and the cool thing is that I betcha she wouldn’t mind being your friend as well. So, pull up a chair, grab a cozy blanket and enjoy Ashley’s words of wisdom. 

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Curiosity is a creeping thing like the seeping of water into the grass’ edges. It not until you step into it that you realize you’re not where you thought you were. That the ground is different than you anticipated. Curiosity doesn’t write itself in the sky with bright letters. Curiosity taps you quietly on the shoulder until you either take heed of it and follow, or it leaves an ache from the bruise of constant, ignored tapping. You can choose to follow where it goes, or get on with your life, too busy to get lost in big questions.

I used to think curiosity was responsible for the wanderlust: my years abroad where all the stacked layers of history were constantly new. Every place promised home, or at least adventure. Curiosity felt like a burgeoning promise as it pushed me into moving every few years for a degree or my husband’s job. And “new” felt holy too. We’d dream about grand adventures, about amassing information and making new contacts, about being God’s hands in hard soil. It felt important somehow to think of ourselves and our mission as burrowing into international cultures, or at least urban ones. We would join the ones on the edges, doing hard things for God.

Yet, now we find ourselves driving a minivan miles from where we grew up. I’m learning the quiet truths as my circles constrict. Curiosity cannot be holy if it is focused on my own need for recognition. “Holy” after all means “other.” And if my curiosity is only about tracing the path of my own mind, my own mission, my own sense of calling, then I am not about the holy. I am only about myself.

Holiness always propels us towards others.

What if “holy” and “curiosity” actually outfit you for the small? What if being holy curious people means your eyes are not on you, but on the grace of presence in front of your nose? Holy curiosity means that the small has dignity. It asserts that recognition and fame do not often hold hands with the holy – but instead, perhaps, that the holy work is following curiosity to the dregs, the pulpy end where all the richness originates.

We can be curious in broad ways, where our eyes roam and we see endless possibilities. There is a time and place for big vision and dreams. But if that is the only way that we can follow curiosity, we will quickly be burnt out and consider ourselves a failure if we wanna-be world changers now drive minivans.

We can be curious in small ways – like the way my son wants to know everything, ever about Harry Potter. He makes lists of characters, colors pictures, and reads and re-reads the novels. He dresses up as Harry, re-writes his Sunday School name tag to be “Harry Potter,” and lists spells. He pays attention because he is caught up into a grander story. He imaginatively lives within it and even without knowing it, the story becomes a way to move within his second-grade world. It’s his water that he swims in.

It’s not just about Harry Potter (although who wouldn’t want to be a wizard and a hero?). Holy curiosity is the way of deep love. And love is always, always displayed in sustained attention. It is full absorption to the details, the rhythms, the contours of what we love. When a lover praises the curves of his lover’s hips, when a foodie sighs at the pairing of ingredients to create a feast for her senses, when a mother breathes in the scent of her child – all of these make holy delight tactile.

And these are all moments that go unnoticed, or noticed by just a few. They are the small, quiet, unseen instances that together make up the seeping movement of holy curiosity. It’s easy to get distracted by messages writ large in the sky and the big world-changing words. But today, consider: what small thing can you pay attention to?

Even the other day, I wanted to finish this piece quickly, but my daughter asked to be held. I was tempted to shoo her away and put on another show, but instead, I put down my laptop and picked her up. I watched her nestle in close to my neck. I saw the slight curls at the nape of her neck and I breathed peace. The moments of sustained attention to another are easily batted away because there is always something larger calling. Unless we decide that we want our lives to be soaked in grace, the tyranny of the urgent will always win. Want to change the world? Then let’s do these small, unseen things: Notice. Linger. Pay attention. Drink the dregs of the holy ordinary. For what else is life for if we do not notice the beauty curled up in the edges of the ordinary?

Ashley Hales profile pictureAshley Hales holds a PhD in literature from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. But she spends most of her time chasing her 4 children and helping her husband plant a church. She writes at AAHales.com, at The Mudroom and various and sundry places across the web. Say hi to Ashley on Twitter and get some free story therapy when you subscribe to her blog. Yup, I know: real deal, huh? So, what did you love about Ashley’s musings? What dialogue do YOU have to add to the conversation? Leave a comment and join in! 

2 thoughts on “holy curiosity: how are you going to change the world? it's not what you think (ashley hales).

  1. I think being able to be curious about the small matters is a sign of God working in us, because he made all the things seen and unseen. A lot of small things in life can go unseen. Diving deeply into them is a holy endeavor, Ashley.

    1. I think so too, Tim. And you’re right, I think it is a sign of God working in us — because it’s counter to how we are wired most of the time. Praying for holy concentration on the small things for all of us!

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