Monday, September 19, 2016

"How are you?" is a thought-provoking question.

I write a lot of blog posts in my head. Recently (almost two months ago) one of those mental posts was about how I was feeling about being asked, "How are you?" (and how I was feeling about asking it). My own thoughts didn't particularly coincide with what Sarah Mae wrote in this post, but I especially liked what I copied and pasted below.  Life IS painful and weird and messy, and full of a lot of "little" challenges that 95% (or more) of the people I run into or interact with here and there are unaware of. At the time when I read that blog post, I actually wrote a few thoughts down, but never shared them. (Disclaimer: If you start reading this and find yourself in disagreement or wanting to move on to something else, skip to the final paragraph and read it before you go. That is really the main point.)

Sometimes I think of those I know who are facing much bigger or harder challenges, and wonder how they do it. There are some challenges and suffering that are more easily communicated publicly, and others that are not to be shared with everyone. We are able to come around, be aware of, and be supportive of someone with a "major" issue because when we hear the words "hospital" or "treatment" or...(fill in the blank), we automatically know that person or family is facing significant hardship. While my daily struggles in no way compare to some of the circumstances I'm thinking of, sometimes I've wondered if all the "little," persistent challenges many of us face are not also affecting us almost as much and serving a similar purpose in our lives of reminding us of our dependence on the Lord, and sharpening our hunger for heaven. (The point of this is not in anyway comparison as we are talking about apples and oranges here, more just a contemplation of life.) 

God tells us in the Bible that we are going to face challenges and to suffer. Jesus did, and if we are growing more like Him, we will as well.  I've come to believe that everyone is dealing, has dealt, or will deal with "stuff". "Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." Romans 8:17

Personally, I do not have the energy or the time to share with everyone who asks, the full, "real" answer to "How are you?" But answering with "fine" or "okay" sounds very trite and feels dishonest, when that isn't exactly the whole story. I'm thankful for a few people I can share with more deeply what all is going on behind the scenes, and hope that we all have a few people like that in our lives. I greatly appreciate hearing what's really going on in others' lives when the opportunities do arise for more in-depth conversation. I wish that there were enough hours in my day (and space in my brain!!!) to pursue more people deeply than is currently feasible. In our age of technology and easy travel, I imagine that we have more friends, family, and acquaintances in our lives than we can ever possibly keep up with, but I often feel the pressure (sometimes self-inflicted) to "be more present" (to use a currently popular catch-phrase) in more people's lives, from those I pass in the halls here and there, to extended family, to friends on social media.

These are all just things I have thought about some recently. I think what I really hope and am learning more all the time as I get older and live life, is that we all grow in our ability to give abundant grace to one another as we realize that "life is painful and weird" for pretty much everyone. Some days we may be able to unpack the full answer to the "How are you?" question more deeply with someone, and some days we have to be content with the shorter "fine" or "okay" or ??? answer, and realize that we can't keep up with everyone. I hope no one reads these rambling thoughts of mine and takes it to mean that I am not interested. Maybe it's a sense that we can't be best of friends with everyone we interact with. I think for me it's a bit of feeling caught between the value of our culture of "vulnerability" and "transparency" and being "truthful", and the reality that I don't have the capacity or desire to go there with everyone I say "Hi! How are you?" to, and who says it to me. And yet, want to be honest. This is a challenge for those of us with a tendency toward more introverted personalities.

From the post by Sarah Mae:
'But the thing is, I really am okay, today, right now. I know God will deal with this stuff. I know that tomorrow I might face something hellish. Sometimes life just hurts and I just have to sit in it, the pain. It comes and goes. I’m not fighting it, just sitting with it. “Here God, do something with this. I’ll wait. I love you. I trust you.” Most of the time I think I trust God. Sometimes I cry out and wonder, “are you even there?'”

That’s a lot of words. Maybe I’ll just say, “Okay and not okay. Life is painful and weird.”

Me, Tiffani, again: If you made it through all of this, thank you. It is kind of a jumble in my mind and here on the screen. But I think the point and what I keep coming back to is GRACE. Grace for others. Grace for myself. Hopefully others' grace for me. And ultimately, God's grace that covers all. That popular saying that makes the rounds in memes and social media that is attributed to Plato is also a good summary: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

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