Questions From A Genius


Several years ago I knew I wanted to make a change. I felt strongly that I wanted to move more squarely into the care of souls in my vocational life, but I felt the audacious and absurd urge to pursue spiritual direction and counseling training at the same time. I sat down with my husband and a big chart.  We plotted out the reality: the time it would take, the money it would cost, the timing with the stages of our children, and everything else we could think of that made the whole idea seem utterly crazy. Without the precise words, we were asking the question: is this foolish, or is this faith’s risk? It was an important question to ponder. There were lots of ways I could have tweaked the plan: I could have pursued the two trainings one at a time, I could have done graduate school part times, or I could have put things off until the kids were older. But I had that sense that this was the plan and that the timing was right. It was faith’s risk for me at that time.

Do you have a similar story? And how do you work through the struggle of how to interpret events or challenges in your life? I recently read Journaling As A Spiritual Practice by Helen Cepero. In the final chapter of the book, she listed these brilliant questions:

  • Is this a distraction or the heart of the matter?
  • Is this a critic, or a mentor?
  • Is this being rooted or being stuck?
  • Is the foolish, or is this faith’s risk?
  • Is this a block to my growth or a challenge to grow further?
  • Is this a detour or the way home? 

I love great questions. Those moments in therapy when the question strikes just so…. it’s like the perfect chord of a symphony…. it stops you in your tracks and makes you reframe. Cepero‘s questions have that potential for any of us when we are faced with conflicts, criticisms, job offers or losses, obstacles in our plans, unexpected feedback, or planned and unplanned transitions. A good question will help us pause on those things and look more closely.

I believe that most of us are prone to discount events far too quickly, without applying the discernment that Cepero‘s questions may bring. We are trained to approach life at the pace of a full court press; crashing through obstacles and impediments to get to the illusive pleasantness on the other side. And what if we’re missing out on meaning in the process? We go too fast, ignore too many events, ask too few questions. If we’re honest, careful reflection can be rattling. But facing the threat that comes with it can lead to a richer life and potentially help us when we need to change course.

I’m writing these questions in the front of my journal and I plan to refer to them throughout the year. Which question feels important for you to engage right now?

To see my longer recommendation of Cepero’s book, click here.


  1. The poinient questions that stops you in your tracks can inteed change ones perspective. I was once asked ” can you imagine living on the other side of your mouth” I was appalled by the question and even more appalled by my own answer. I knew change was nessesary.

  2. Very timely questions and comments in the age of “Acedia” the other deadly sin, mostly forgotten now, but perhaps the spirit of our age.

    Here’s my personal challenge which this article helps me to consider – Our teenage children and how to help them through these questions with the opportunities available today. It’s one thing to know for myself, another to help my older children and perhaps those I disciple to know that there is a real path (!) that God has for each of us. these questions really help even to give a moment for spiritual eyes to adjust to the Light that is there along the path. Thanks, Janice! I’m passing this along to others.

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