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. 


WoodElves said...

What a great post, hope! Maybe I'll start asking questions like that at my play dates this summer, because I'm already tired of the small talk.

L R said...

Great post, Hope! I so often am refreshed when I do have an in person conversation with a dear friend as i live so far away from most of them. It amazes me how much I do not know about the going ons of the details of my friend's lives until I get them one on one even if we have kept up well while apart.

Anonymous said...

I love this, Bop! It's so true that conversations dwindle when I'm trying to just keep up small talk instead of sparking a real conversation.
My trouble sometimes comes with having that conversation while still sounding thankful for everything God sends my way.

Hope said...

(I just changed the title to beyond small talk instead of breaking out of small talk, cause it's not like it's BAD)

no, I TOTALLY know what you mean, Sarah!! (I'll TRY to be concise here!!!) Cause it's equally easy to fall into the trap of using prayer request time to gossip or complain. At parish group last time, I actually asked Toby about something similar, and he said that we should remember to have the goal of seeking a solution in our discussion and not just venting. I thought that was a super helpful distinction! Wish I had known that when we first got married, and in the name of transparency and intimacy, I was a total whino to Ellis! He made a rule for me that I wasn't allowed to complain to him until I'd prayed about whatever it was. ;)

Also, though, about thankfulness, I feel like plenty of times, "real conversations" can be thankful, and aren't always about problems. I think another thing is that like with the Psalms, we can be REAL and HONEST and yet also thank God in the midst of it. Or acknowledge that we know the truth, but our hearts haven't caught up yet.

I've struggled with the same question and issue, Sarah, and those are just some thoughts that helped me with it.

Hope said...

ok, one more thing--that one was just getting too long! :)

Another thing that kinda clicked for me last summer is hearing a sermon by I think Tim Keller, where he contrasts optimism, pessimism, and the biblical perspective.

Pessimism says life is rough, optimism says life is peachy, but biblical reality says that sometimes life IS really rough, BUT in the midst of that, God is good and He is working out good.

M&M said...

It is so true that you need other people to remind you of God's promises and character, but they can't specifically help you if you don't share! A few weeks ago someone reminded me that God wasn't sitting up there thinking, "If only I had timed this better." It took someone else looking from the outside in to tell me that God was growing Mike and me together, in different ways. Thanks for the encouragement to answer honestly when someone asks.

m.ellen said...

this is my FAVORITE blog post EVER! MEEEE TOOOO! thank you for the encouragement Hope; I will ask that and open myself to be asked that. I love our conversations and I find them so soul-refreshing! I want to read this once a day to be reminded. :)

Anonymous said...

Such a great post, Hope. You do a wonderful job getting "beyond small talk". Even our 15 minute phone calls turn into encouragement or sharing of some kind.

Julie Snider said...

Wonderful post, Sis! Do you have the title of or link to that sermon?

Hope said...

Molly, silly bear, you're the inspirational person I was talking about in the first place!! :) you already ask that question! :)

K-babe, it takes two! :)

Julie, it's number 45 on this list, called Reconciliation:

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