Cut the small talk.
Or how to ask the big questions.
“So how long have you been a Christian?”
Someone asked me that question last night at an event I was part of; the purpose of which was to equip and inspire kids from all walks and avenues of life to discover their inner artist. The event was a smashing success, as was our conversation. Although, answering that question was a little difficult as I struggled to provide an accurate response.
I guess I could have said “Since I was about 5 years old.” That would have been a suitable answer, I suppose. My actual response was a 15 minute journey through my past. I shared my highs and lows. My time with drug dealers and drug users. My trip through the BC interior, where I was homeless, depressed, confused, and ultimately overcome with anxiety and sorrow. Throughout all my journeys God has been ever faithful. I, on the other hand, have not.
I’ve searched for Him, and I have run from Him. I have called out to Him in my darkness, and I have shunned Him in the shadows. I have worshipped Him on the proverbial mountaintop, and in the same breath exalted myself in my accomplishments. Being a particularly emotional man, my journey has reflected my personality.
To ask me how long I have been a Christian is to ask an appropriate question. It’s also limiting and constricting in a way. It’s a small question. Our stories are as much about the ups as they are about the downs.
Want to ask a bigger question?
We all do. The big questions are what drive us. The big questions invite others into our lives, ask them to stay awhile, take their coats and make them lunch. The big questions elicit big answers. Genuine, thoughtful answers that allow others to be heard and known for who they are.
Here’s a big question:
“What’s your story? How long have you known God, and what has He done in your life?”
Don’t get me wrong here, knowing God and being a Christian are often one-and-the-same. But language creates the world we inhabit. And sometimes, we create small worlds. It’s the difference between asking someone how long they’ve known a friend, and asking them about the nature of their friendship. One answer is very simple, and doesn’t leave much room for exploration. The other is an invitation to engage in a meaningful dialogue.
It’s worth noting that neither question is wrong. One question simply skips the formalities, and cuts to the chase.
What lies beneath one question is an unintentional lack of understanding and grace, while the other often elicits a full, soul-opening response.
We may have always been aware our creator, but we have not always belonged to him; even though we might belong to a church, or have grown up in the church, the human heart tends to wander.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has gone his own way; and The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all – Isaiah 53:6
Asking someone what God has done in their life allows them the opportunity to share with you their experiences. Our lives are stories told chapter by chapter. Why settle for a simple page count, when you have the freedom to journey through someone’s personal account of redemption and reconciliation?
It might seem like I’m splitting hairs with this one. All I can suggest is that you ask this question for yourself, and see how the replies differ. I guarantee you that for some people, how you pose this question won’t matter. For others, it will make all the difference.
So the next time you meet someone new, simply ask them how long they’ve known God, and what He’s done in their life. It’s the chance to not only hear someone’s tale, but to witness the love, grace and faithfulness of God in the life of another human being.
The cry of my heart as of late has been to break down the barriers between brothers and sisters, and to inspire those around me to seek intimate fellowship and communion within the body of Christ. Some of these barriers exist in the language we use. So why not use our words to make bigger worlds, and tighter connections?
Let’s cut the small talk, and ask the big questions. It’s worth a shot. You never know what’s around the corner. It could be the conversation of a lifetime.