|Catching up with a friend at an swim meet last weekend.
She went right past fluff to real stuff. So refreshing!
Don't you love those moments when you find yourself in a social situation where you want to move past small talk but have no idea how to do it without sounding nosy or awkward? It is so easy to talk about the weather, ask what someone did over the weekend, or the triumphs of the local sports team. But then what?
If you dump too many of your own problems on someone, they may never come back, even for small talk. Or if you ask too probing a question, they also may never come back, even for small talk! How are we supposed to go deeper in relationships if we can't move past the small talk?
One of my priorities in conversation is to try to draw out the other person, so I (try to!) avoid talking solely about myself. I listen for things in the conversation that lend themselves to further questions. For example, if someone is sharing about a difficult situation with their spouse or kids, I might ask how they respond emotionally. I know how I would react, but they are not me and I can learn a lot about them, and from them, by asking such a question.
Another approach I like to take, is to have a few open-ended questions ready to ask: what they like best about their job, describe what a normal day in your life is like, or what do you do for fun. Anything to make the conversation advance past how much it has been raining or how quickly the summer is flying by!
As I was cooking eggs to feed the masses one morning before rushing out to Summer's Best Two Weeks, I was thinking about good questions. Here are the two that came to mind:
What is great about you?
What is your most-difficult-to-discuss struggle?
Both of these questions reveal a lot about us and how we think about ourselves. Meditating on them also convinced me that these two questions can point us straight to God; yep, even the one about what is great about us!
You see, what is amazing about who we are and the life experience we have had is all a gift from God. The Bible says he knit us together in our mother's womb and He knows all about every aspect of our being and our living. None of it is an accident. What is great about you is an opportunity to praise the One who made you and has provided experiences and education for you! What we are proud of or happy about who we are is an opportunity to worship. We cannot take credit for the myriad things that have been providentially given, so we can give credit where credit is due.
Now, how about that second question? What is your most-difficult-to-discuss struggle? Is there anyone in your life with whom you discuss it? Have you even dared to open up that part of your heart to the Lord?! It is scary to be vulnerable, even with the One who already knows how bad it is! But lean in, my friend, that which is most difficult at the moment is an opportunity to entrust yourself to God and watch Him work in astounding ways! What we struggle with and burdens us is an opportunity to worship. We can't handle it, but we know the Lord can; we honor Him by talking with Him about it and placing it in His hands.
Before you go asking these questions of someone else, answer them for yourself! Most of us don't take the time to know ourselves well enough; the tyranny of the urgent is always consuming us. If we can answer these questions, though, it will launch us to new depths of faith and, as we invite others to consider the same, new depths of friendship. Will you give it a go today?
Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
If you feel brave, I would love to hear your answers so I can join you in worship, pray for your struggles, and get to know you better!