Monday, May 28, 2012

beyond small talk

Recently, I got to see one of my really good friends whom I hadn't seen in a while. We sat down to talk at a coffee shop in Tacoma, and she asked me, "What has God been teaching you lately?" That is the most refreshing question EVER to me. Nothing kills a phone conversation with a friend faster than "What have you been doing lately?" or "So what's new?"

I hate it when conversations start like that, because first of all, I usually have no idea what I've been DOING--I almost always have to stop and think for 30 seconds to think of what we did the past weekend! Also, a lot of times, what I've been DOING is not that interesting--nor does it necessarily help the other person RELATE to me. Honestly, an answer to a question like that would go like, "well, the weather's started getting nicer, so Brody and I have been going to the park a lot lately." Or even, to get INTERESTING, "Ellis and I just bought a canoe." I'm very thankful for our canoe, and I know that friends love to hear about that stuff, but sometimes it's hard for the conversation to GO from there, cause there's nothing to say "ME TOO" about. I totally recognize that there is a place for those sorts of conversations, and not every discussion has to be at the level of "what's God been teaching you lately?" I'm just saying that I think a lot us would have a lot more significant and challenging relationships if we asked each other these sorts of questions more often. 

I love C.S. Lewis' description of the birth of his lifelong friendship with Arthur Greaves. I don't remember if this was in the Four Loves, or in some of his letters, but the gist is he walked into Arthur's house and saw a collection of Norse mythology, and he said they made eye contact, and it was like, "What? You too? I thought I was the only one!" One of the girls in my Bible study recently made the observation that in addition to being connected by shared interests, when we share our struggles, temptations, challenges, goals, and triumphs with each other can create that same sort of reaction.

It's scary to share the temptations that we deal with, because honestly, sometimes I'm scared that I am the only one that ever has the temptations I have, and that if I mention it, people will KNOW I am the worst sinner out there! I'll think, "I'm sure no one else struggles with jealousy over such a petty thing, and then if they know, they'll know my weakness and judge me." But often when we make ourselves vulnerable and out of humility are willing to share things to help others, we discover others that relate to the very things we thought no one else dealt with. And suddenly, there are others to help and share what helped them. 

I mean, I know ultimately the answer to what to do with sin boils down to "Confess and repent." But SOMETIMES that is easier said than done, or we confess with our minds, but it takes a LONG TIME to internalize something in our hearts. Sometimes we just need to hear something in a different way than we've thought of it, or hear an example in a different context, like when the Prophet Nathan confronted David about Bathsheba. Often hearing someone else share a Bible verse, or a quote, or a story can be what we need to just change our perspective a tiny bit and make something STICK. Also, it's incredible how often if you say something to someone, they'll have been thinking about the SAME THING and you both can add to each other's thoughts! God gave us one another to bear each other's burdens, and so a lot of times, when we do the scary thing and let someone see that we're not perfect (or ADMIT it, cause they prolly already know!), we can receive the nourishment that we don't even know how badly we need. 
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