My husband told me, “try not to look like a tourist.”
That was the advice I tucked away for my recent trip to New York City.
I feel pretty comfortable in Washington, DC, but I know nothing about the Big Apple.
So I bought a laminated map the week before my trip and then I spent an afternoon on my comfy blue sofa with a cup of tea, my map, my itinerary, and my good friend: Google.
Then I wrote it all down, every bit of it. What subway stations to use. How many stops there were between places. How much tickets would cost.
This is my modus operandi: intense preparation before any action.
Eventually, though, you just have to do it. You have to step off the tour bus into the city and make your way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art with nothing but a map, your notes, scattered street signs, and some friends. Plus you need to do it without looking like a tourist, which probably means not pulling out the map and pointing at landmarks in the middle of Central Park (I failed).
Somehow my friends and I found our way, partly because of my advanced preparations, partly because we got lost and learned from our mistakes, and mostly because we asked questions.
“If I’m on seventh avenue, which way do I need to go to 8th avenue?”
“Am I headed in the right direction for the art museum?”
“Are the subways on this level going the direction we want to go?”
I asked the lady pushing her stroller through Central Park, the security guard walking down 42nd street, and the guy adding money to his frequent user subway card. I asked questions all over New York City.
As long as someone looked like they were friendly, approachable, and knowledgeable, they were fair game for one of my questions.
I’m a question-asking girl. I even wrote a whole book about asking questions (Ask Me Anything, Lord), so this is who I am and how I navigate the big, wide world.
In life, we can try our best to seek our own answers or wrestle with guidebooks and Google-searches in hope of making good choices.
Or we can make mistakes and then learn from them.
But it’s often much easier and far less painful just to ask.
Ask a friend for help. Ask someone we respect for advice. Ask a mentor for prayer. Ask an expert for some input.
Being willing to seek advice with a humble heart opens us up to wisdom.
Proverbs tells us:
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
but a wise man listens to advice (Proverbs 12:15 ESV).
We don’t just ask any random person, of course.
We ask those we respect, those who have already “been there,” those who are prayerful and those who live with godliness.
More than all of that, though, we can bring our question-filled hearts to God Himself.
Jesus told us to ask (Matthew 7:7). He gave us permission to come to Him with questions and requests, and He even praised those who sought His help when they needed it.
Of course, it’s deeply humbling to confess the truth: “I don’t know all the answers.”
But this is what we need, to recognize what we don’t know…to trample over our own pride and admit our deficiency. This is what allows God to teach us and to guide us.
Moses stood barefoot in front of the burning bush and dared to ask the big question:
“If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” (Exodus 3:13 ESV).
He said to God, “Who are you?!”
No pretending like he had it all together or knew everything or was so capable all on his own.
And God answered:
God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14 ESV).
Moses’s question led to revelation, God telling His very holy name: I AM.
One of the deepest moments of divine revelation in the entirety of Scripture came because Moses dared to ask a question.
It takes time to ask and listen for the answer.
It takes humility to lay aside our own opinion and agenda and seek God’s thoughts and plans.
It takes a teachable heart to seek advice from a respected friend.
But we’ll learn more, make fewer mistakes, and get a little less lost in this life if we embrace humility and learn the art of asking questions.