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The Inquisitive Christ
12 Engaging Questions
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“Acknowledge” is such a pale word for what must happen on this page. I can acknowledge many truths, but the Gospel has taught me that gratitude springs from a deeper place. It is to this place I go.
To Jimmy Murphy—fellow pilgrim and Kingdom Son. You saved me from falling off Mount Brandon, and you’ve saved me every day since. The fruit is now ripe. We knew one day it would be.
To Mom and Dad. You could see who I was becoming, and you never lost that vision. We share together in what’s to come.
To MGW and JCRF. Your stories are beautiful, and so are your lives. Thank you for sharing them with the world and with me. I love being your mom.
To the first readers—Alison Kline, Lisa and David Sosin, Caroline White, and especially my anam cara Sacha Layman. Your eyes were safeguards to every word that God had planned. I’m grateful these words found a home with you.
To my agent, Scott Lamb. Your unflappable patience made me believe anything was possible. Indeed, it was. Thank you for seeing me and believing in what you saw.
To the team at FaithWords and HBG, especially my amazing editor, Virginia Bhashkar. Your collaborations have polished every rough edge. Thank you for making me a part of your family.
To my Irish friends. Feicfidh mé thú go luath, Lord willing. Sláinte.
And to the Inquisitive Christ. The glory and my heart belong to you.
BREACHING THE BARRICADE OF DOUBT
“Where Is Your Faith?”
Drowning in the Current of Mistrust
Why can’t you see
What you’re doing to me
When you don’t believe a word I say?
“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Matthew 14:31, ESV
On the western edge of Ireland, the Atlantic rushes from North America like a refugee in flight. Despite the promises made by the Gulf Stream, at the height of an Irish summer, the temperature of Kerry waters huddles in the mid-forties. The air temperatures don’t cross into the seventies save a miracle, and there’s always the breeze that bites.
Nevertheless, the Gaeltacht Irish are sailors and fisherfolk and lovers of the sea. The cold does not keep them landbound any more than it does the native sea mammals that soak in the chill tub of Ireland’s bays. Even wee Irish children swim in these waters.
The Murphys were not going to be put to shame. When in Rome, and all that nonsense.
We determined not only to get our feet wet—we were going to submerge. We were going to swim to the local fishing pier and back, the length of three football fields in one direction. We decided to do this great feat the next warm, sunny day. That day came and went, and we found a legitimate reason to back out.
Despite the sun’s warmth, the water was still cold—iceberg cold.
We waited a few more days until the forecast called for a June heat wave, when the air temperature would reach a whopping 68 degrees Fahrenheit. That day came, and that day it rained.
We procrastinated until evening, knowing the beach would be empty. When we arrived, the only other person crazy enough to swim was an older man from the village, wearing nothing but a tragically small suit and a swim cap. He swam belly up, lazily backstroking near the shore like driftwood. He waved as we picked our way down the stony beach.
Reluctantly dropping our towels, we stepped into the water, holding hands. Jimmy and I stood there, hopping from one foot to the other, shrieking like distressed animals. The next moment, Jimmy Murphy dropped my hand and ran like a wild man into the crashing surf.
I followed. We were going to touch that pier if it killed us.
When I first dove under the water, I thought with shocking ire: The Atlantic has betrayed me. This water was for penguins and Antarctic explorers—not for normal swimmers. Instantly, it felt like every ounce of breath was sucked from my body, and every muscle strangled itself seeking warmth. We were gasping and swallowing water all while trying to move shocked limbs that were furious at our brains. Somewhere in the distance, I heard the whoops of my children.
Within steps, the rocky bottom gave way, and we were well beyond our depth—the fishing pier still far in the distance. I rolled over on my back, concentrating. I needed to regulate my labored breathing. Thick, tan seaweed, ten feet long or more, danced just beneath my back and legs. It tickled and bumped against me. We knew whale life was abundant in Kerry. I was picturing what mammoth sea creatures were watching me from the weeds below. I tried imagining that I was simply swimming in a backyard pool. This did not work.
Jimmy and I reached the pier at the same time, but the waves were too rough to climb the narrow concrete stairs to the platform high above. They were slick and algae-covered, and I imagined my head cracking like a waterlogged melon with the next thrashing roll. We touched the pier with our toes in defiant joy and kicked off in a rush, turning to go what felt like miles back to shore.
What we didn’t realize was that our swim to the pier had been in cooperation with the current. Now this same current opposed us, violently, and we drifted quite a bit as we fought with heavier limbs toward shore. We were completely numb. For the first time, I thought of how dangerous this was, how easy it would be for one of us to lose control, carried into the sea beyond from sheer exhaustion. When we finally hauled ourselves onto the shoreline’s slimy rocks, white as sheets and panting for breath, I thanked Jesus. Our girls, first-grader Macy and kindergartner Jo, ran to us, cheering, unaware how precarious life had just been.
We’d been naïve, foolish.
We bundled up in our towels and drove home to our tiny Euro shower, where American heads and shoulders stuck out above the curtain. We hunched under the hot flow for an extravagant amount of time, uncaring that we had to pay extra for hot water. Jimmy stoked the peat bricks in the grate. I made scalding mugs of instant coffee. It took us several hours, a heap of Irish blankets, and a nap to feel warm again.
The Irish Atlantic water is an untamed environment, unfriendly for play, dangerous for extended immersion. We stayed in too long, we swam out too far, and we’d come close to true peril. We were way out of our depth.
Each of us is irresistibly compelled to make this foolish swim daily, never expecting that we won’t be able to return to shore when we’ve had enough. What many would never choose for our bodies, we force upon our souls. This self-inflicted peril is the universal story of our time.
There is an ancient wound in the beating heart of the world, a wound that spreads doubt like toxins into every exchange. There is a Mariana Trench down the center of the cosmos, a rift as dark as death itself. In reaction to the taunts of betrayal, corruption, and the evasion of truth we live with every day, we’ve all plunged into the ever-moving current of suspicion.
We, the image-bearers, do not trust the image we bear. God, the image-giver, is deeply misunderstood. We keep seeing through the eyes of betrayal, expecting to find him exposed as a divine fraud.
We trust nothing, doubt everything. Questions and mistrust are as involuntary as sweating in the heat or shivering in the cold.
This swim we’re in is not a hospitable environment. Our limbs are numb, slothlike in a sea that feels more like mud than saltwater. We forget how cold we are, thinking we’re safe, but we’re not. We’ve just lost feeling, we’ve lost control, and the current is steering.
Being deceived by someone in authority, someone meant to protect and uphold truth, is not a moment easily forgotten. My parents were teenagers during Nixon’s America. They both remember where they were when they watched the highest official in the land shake his head and swear he was not a crook. They can also remember the day this same president was caught in his lies and corruption.
My generation remembers its own moments. It was the mid-nineties, the decade of MTV and Doc Martens, when young millennials first began to learn that our world was full of questions, an unsafe place for us to grow. This was a world where a famous football player allegedly committed a double homicide, walking free when so many thought him guilty. This was a world that broadcasted the Somalian genocide alongside news of Julia Roberts’s latest beau. This was a world where the United States government quibbled fiercely over what constitutes Oval Office perjury.
At the same time I was taught “Just Say No” to sex and drugs, my president was lying about his abuse of them. My peers and I watched the media coverage in our social studies classrooms. We were being educated by our country’s humiliation and exposure from the top down.
It wasn’t just a political problem, nor could all the blame be assigned to Hollywood or sports organizations alone. The worldwide church fared no better. From the Vatican to the Bible Belt, pastors and priests fell like dominoes in the game of tawdry vices. The dress of Christ’s bride was being dragged through the mud at an alarming rate, and corruption was leaking out everywhere. Televangelists, prosperity gospels, false healings, and big hair became the face of the church. Thanks to modern media, the church could no longer hide its mess.
The doubting world watched with rising anger, growing in proportion to the current’s magnetic pull on our homes and families.
At that time, I wanted to be a lawyer or a writer when I grew up. In my idealistic youth, both occupations were held by defenders of justice, culturally appointed truth-tellers. I’d heard it asked in the televised trials we watched at school: “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”
The appropriate response is to put hand to Bible and promise, “I do.” It reminded me strangely of a wedding. But like many marriages around me, I found that the vows could be broken before they’d even been made. It seemed no one was capable of telling the whole truth. My formative teenage years were saturated with these small betrayals. This awakening to the fragility of trust took the yielding material of childhood clay, spinning and shaping us until we all understood what must be done: Trust no one. Doubt everything.
We were being schooled in the most important lesson of our times—the value of the question. This was not simple rhetoric or healthy analytical processing. We weren’t being taught simply to think—we were taught to doubt, to mistrust.
We were choking down the salty seawater of mistrust because that was the thing to do. To survive, suspicion and doubt would be my allies. Questions and cynicism would chart the course like glittering holes in the black sky.
SLIGHT MOMENTS IN PUBLIC RESTROOMS
All stories end the same. Sooner or later, every kid realizes that the world isn’t a safe place to grow up.
For some, one traumatic event defines the insecurity of the individual position. For others, it’s a series of frightening disappointments, slight moments that leave us feeling small and scared in a world of mean giants. These moments create in each of us a capacity that we were not born possessing: the capacity to mistrust. It’s this world-bred capacity that teaches us that to survive we must be tough. We must not trust. We must question the people around us and suspect the things they say. None of us escape this capacity for self-protection.
As a parent, I thought I could shield my daughters from such a capacity. I could not and cannot still. This painful discovery, fraught with a maddening helplessness every parent understands, was made certain when my oldest daughter, Macy, was seven. This girl is a fierce, ninja-warrior princess. Macy is strong and brave and full of wonder, but even Macy is not immune to the increasing capacity for mistrust.
The slight moments found her out, just like the rest of us.
We were in Killarney, the city closest to our home village on the Kerry peninsula. It was less than a couple of hours away, but we didn’t go there often. It was a different kind of beauty than the coast—a manicured, civil beauty that lacked the raw wildness drawing us to the seascape. In Killarney, there is an old estate, Muckross House, surrounded by an Old World park with clipped lawns and gardens, a lake, and a closely trimmed wooded path. The times we visited, it reminded me of Central Park—overrun with tourists, people taking pictures and buying souvenirs. We hadn’t been there long when Macy tugged my sleeve with an urgent need to find a restroom. We followed the signs and found what we needed.
One thing important to know about Irish public restrooms is that there are no stalls—not in the same way we have them in America. Each toilet area is a tiny room, much like a broom closet. There is no crawl space under or over the door. When the door is shut, the occupant has barely any room to move, let alone remove the necessary clothing. Elbows touch the sides of the walls, and knees press against the door, shut to freedom.
Macy didn’t like the look of it, but her need was pressing. These small, cramped rooms designed for relieving oneself threatened my own adult sense of personal security. She asked if I would go in with her, but there simply wasn’t room. I remember impatiently urging her to go in, that everything would be fine.
Everything was not fine.
When she tried to get out, she found that she couldn’t turn the doorknob. The rusted lock had stuck, and the door was jammed. It took exactly one second for my sweet, trusting daughter to get hysterical. She started shrieking and sobbing, pushing the door, pulling the door, kicking the door with her pink rubber Crocs. She jiggled the knob as hard as she could. I could hear her muffled fists pounding on the solid wood. She couldn’t hear me trying to calm her down. I was starting to get hysterical myself. Irish women were staring helplessly.
- "[A] call to a vital and powerful relationship with Jesus...delivered with a prophetic power that will bring many readers to a point of decision."—-Dr. Donald Fowler, former book review editor, Grace Theological Review
- "Jesus used two disarming methods to lovingly lay bare the human heart: question and story. In THE INQUISITIVE CHRIST, Cara Murphy, by way of Scripture and strikingly honest personal stories, leads us deep into the questions Jesus asked--and still asks. The Master, we learn, never uses questions to shame or accuse but always to invite and illuminate and usher us, if we're willing, into freedom and life."—-Brian Morykon, director of communications, Renovaré
- "It's been a long time since I've read a book with such lovely prose. It's been a long time since I've read a book that asks such probing questions. THE INQUISITIVE CHRIST is an exquisite work, one for those who seek not only truth, but goodness and beauty, too."—-Karen Swallow Prior, author of On Reading Well and Fierce Convictions
- "Cara L. T. Murphy offers an exquisitely unique and refreshing look at the spacious questions of Jesus Christ. As she skillfully guides you into their rich and powerful complexity, you will find yourself on an adventure with God that is profoundly intimate and real."—-Dr. Lisa Sosin, psychotherapist, professor, Ph.D program director
- "A journey with THE INQUISITIVE CHRIST through our failures, confusion, and suffering to the authentic and intimate relationship with the God our restless hearts long for."—-Dr. Mark D. Allen, executive director, Center for Apologetics and Cultural Engagement, Liberty University, and coauthor of Apologetics at the Cross
- On Sale
- Mar 24, 2020
- Page Count
- 288 pages