Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Wide-eyed and full of questions

Written by: on September 20, 2018

As a young girl, I devoured books. I would spend hours reading. Of course, I am an only child, so I was often driven to stories to find playmates. In these stories, I would find countless friends. I discovered a lot about myself and was free to explore worlds that didn’t exist except in my mind’s eye. I would often carry a flashlight to bed, sure I was sneaking something past my mom and dad, reading for hours under my bedcovers. I never had trouble staying awake.

Adler’s book challenges me in two ways. First, reading with grit. Second, reading with questions.

Reading with Grit.

“Whether you manage to keep awake or not depends in large part on your goal in reading. If your aim in reading is to profit from it – to grow somehow in mind or spirit – you have to keep awake. That means reading as actively as possible. It means making an effort – an effort for which you expect to be repaid.”[1]

I winced a bit when I read this, realizing I don’t always approach my reading with great expectation. I am often guilty of using my reading as a daily sleeping pill. What a waste! I was further convicted of this as I read the portion of the book on syntopical reading[2]. How will I ever pull the best out of resources if I am not approaching them as a “demanding reader,” with expectations of repayment for my time? I should be approaching my reading with as much tenacity as I approached the books I read as a child. Though the repayment expectation is different, my posture should remain the same. I may be surprised by the treasures that lie in the material I am now reading. I need to add some perseverance and tenacity to my reading…I need to read with grit. 

Reading with Questions.

I am sure all parents are familiar with the rite of passage that is the perpetual “why?” of the toddler years.[3] In an article from Harvard Business Review, 200 clients with children were surveyed, and they responded that 70-80% of their children’s conversation were questions compared to 15-25% of their own conversations. It seems that as we enter adulthood and the demand to have answers grows, we stop asking questions.

Adler challenges our lack of questions. In fact, he proposes that every reading experience should be a discovery process as we seek answers to major questions about our reading.[4] For me, this is one of the reasons the chapters on syntopical reading are so helpful. Perhaps I never outgrew the toddler phase, but the more I read and learn, the more I realize I don’t know. This leads to more reading and discovery. Adler’s explanation of how to pull the best out of all our simultaneous reading is priceless.

As I enter this program, I am doing my best to approach reading and research wide-eyed and full of questions. I can’t wait to see where these questions will lead…perhaps to some of the powerful, God-dreamed pictures I now see in my mind’s eye…


[1] Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren, How to Read a Book (New York: Touchstone, 1972), 45.

[2] Ibid, 307.

[3] Pohlman, Tom and Neethi Mary Thomas. “Relearning the Art of Asking Questions.” Harvard Business Review, 2015.

[4] Adler, 46.


About the Author

Rhonda Davis

Rhonda is passionate about loving her Creator, her wonderful husband, and her three amazing sons. She serves as VP of Enrollment Management & Student Development at The King's University in Southlake, TX.

10 responses to “Wide-eyed and full of questions”

  1. Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Thank you for the inspiration, Rhonda. “Reading with grit” was what I needed to hear, as well as the excitement you have woven into this post.

    With every new lesson learned, I too realize how much I do not know and always want that to humble me and keep me ever teachable.

  2. Andrea Lathrop says:

    Thank you for this, Rhonda. I am grateful for the way you organized this book into two overarching challenges – reading with grit and questions. I will need this too for the journey ahead!

  3. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    How interesting that we all have a great love of reading but are now discovering that our previous reading skills and approaches are insufficient for doctoral research. It is humbling to discovery I need to learn how to read and think in a different way. I so appreciated your analogy of young children always asking questions on the road to discovery. Thank you for modeling how to approach research and reading wide-eyed and full of questions. Isn’t it amazing how that distinction can change our perspective from bewilderment to wonder on the road to doctoral research. Thanks so much for your thoughts, H

  4. Thanks for this Rhonda. I know you quoted the Harvard Business Review to highlight the inquisitiveness we apparently lose as we mature into adults. I wonder if Adler addresses this? If I was taught to look for a purpose or the problem authors try to solve in their writing, I would’ve appreciated and been more excited about discovering a variety of genres in books. On the other hand, without the proper reading list, I doubt readers ever mature to that level.

    At Talbot School of Theology where I work, one of the hermeneutics courses require Adler’s book. Having read Adler, I can now see how this is super helpful in understanding Scripture. Adler’s tips on reading apply to Bible reading as well.

  5. Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    Excellent points Rhonda. Looking forward to asking, and hearing, the questions of everyone in our cohort!

  6. Digby Wilkinson says:

    One of the quetions I have often faced when reading material by experts is, “What questions am I’m supposed to ask? I found Adler’s general encouragement to forget the concept of ‘expert’ and ask the simple questions for which the answers are unclear, or we don’t intitially agree with. We all know more than we think, and just because it’s in print ought not make it any more daunting to ask questions. But I’m not surprised we often feel incapable. Many years ago I had a theology professory from a unversity in one of the southern states of America, who was offended that a lowly undergrad would dare question him. I’m glad those days have gone – at least I hope they have.

  7. Mario Hood says:

    I like it…reading with grit! I recently just started working out and getting into an overall better state of health and it has taken a lot of grit. Mainly because I so used to not being in shape that it to a look a grit and hard work to change my thinking. This book has done that for me, in that, I have begun the shift of lazy reading to grit reading as you put it. As they say, nothing great ever comes easy, so changing our reading habits won’t be easy but great things will come from it, that I’m sure of.

    Thanks for the inspiring post!

  8. Karen Rouggly says:

    I love this! This post was so well organized, and as everyone has mentioned, the idea of reading with grit is so aptly stated. Rhonda, I think you’re also writing with grit, and will continue to do so!

  9. Sean Dean says:

    Chalk me up as one more person that loves the idea of reading with grit. Though honestly, I think reading with questions is probably my biggest struggle. Asking that the author answer the questions of why and how come are not things that I do very often. Yet another thing to add to the pile of things I’ve learned in our only 3 week old program.

  10. Thank you Rhonda, you have brought it out so clearly on how to read actively and not passively. This will help us go through our doctoral program successfully. As I have said elsewhere on my blog, reading Adler’s book has awakened me to the truth that I was just reading for knowledge but not having an active dialogue with the author in order to ‘catch’ the message. I totally agree with you that if we are to add knowledge and achieve growth in our minds, we have to read with grit and with questions.

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