Someone asked me last night when the last time was that I asked you how you were feeling.
Have I ever asked you how you were feeling? Ever said, ‘What’s on your mind?’
I am so full of words that I fill our space, don’t I? Every time, I fill our space with taptaptap and yapyapyap and you don’t get a word in edgeways. This place that I come to be with you – it may be filled with you, because you are everything, but it’s me that provides the soundtrack.
It made me stop in my tracks, the idea that I should ask you how you were. I have no idea why the idea should take me by surprise, exactly, since I know full well that you are a sentient being who loves, hates, sings with joy and weeps with sadness; it says so in the Bible. I know that you care. I know that you interact; I know that you speak. I don’t have to fill every gap with Me. I’m just good at it.
It’s no wonder that when you want my attention you use song lyrics, or someone else’s words, or a sermon, or a book, because those are the times when I’m listening, rather than talking, filling the space with noise. I wonder if, given the chance, you’d use the silence.
What would you say, if I asked you how you were? Would you smile and say, ‘Fine, thanks‘? Then I’d go back to talking about me?
Would you say, ‘Well, since you asked…‘ and tell me how the world grieves you, embarrasses you, hurts you? Would you lay your heart next to mine for a brief moment so that I might see what you see, and understand the urgency?
Would you just let me sit for a while and fill me with peace?
It’s odd, really. If a friend came round for a chat, one or other of us would start the conversation off by asking how things were, and at some point the other would definitely get a turn, but not so with you. I’m sorry that I don’t extend you the same courtesy.
I come at you with a list of woes and hopes and anxieties and regrets and sometimes I might remember to insert a bit of confession or praise… but rarely do I leave you an opening. I know that you don’t need anything from me – it’s not as if you need to unburden yourself as I do, but you never stop listening to me. You listen and you listen and you never lose patience with me. What sort of friendship never asks in return, never wants to know?
What would you tell me, if I listened to you?
I’m not very good at listening. I think I’m getting better at noticing, and so you, ever gracious, show me things. I’m getting better at laying down my worries in front of you and you are infinitely compassionate and you take care of them. But I forget to ask about you.
I’d love to know how you are. I’d love to know what you have on your heart.
Or at least I think I would. Something deep within me felt a bit uneasy as I said that. Blimey, what might you lay on me if I asked you what was on your mind, and you took me at your word? What would I do if you gave me the tiniest glimpse of the heart of Almighty God about something?
There are any number of things that you might say to me, if I asked you. You might show me the depth of your grief at the state we’re in. You might fill me with your frustration that we live in a world that allows people to starve while we order Christmas turkeys that won’t fit in the fridge. You might give me a burden for the lost or homeless or persecuted. I’m a bit nervous about burdens. I might never be the same again.
If my daughter slid onto the stool next to me right now and asked me, ‘Mummy, how are you?‘ what would I say?
‘Well, darling, apart from being tired and full of cold, I’m disappointed with the way you said you wanted baked beans tonight and then left them all on your plate. I don’t like the way you stamp when you don’t get your own way, and you’re not working hard enough at your handwriting. And your room is a terrible mess, do I have to keep on telling you and telling you?’Hardly. So why do I assume that you’d lay something awful on me?
You’re not in the business of guilt. You know how fragile I am, and you don’t bear a grudge. You would never crush me like that; you love me too much. If one of my daughters came to me that way I’d pull her close to me and I’d say, ‘Thankyou for asking. I’m happy that you’re here next to me.’
Or possibly right now I wouldn’t, because I’ve been working hard at putting them to bed, but you know what I mean.
You might sit companionably by my side and tell me that you’re pleased. Pleased with my baby steps in the right direction and that little bright bit of my heart that does, genuinely and honestly, does want to make you happy. You might overlook the great hulking dark portions that are selfish and mean and bitter and you might stick a ‘Great Work!’ sticker on my chest to reinforce the good things.
You might share something of your dreams with me. The Plan. Your vision. You might blow my mind with possibilities. I might be so inspired that it changes my life direction. You might reveal something to me that I need to share with other people. You might trust me with a message to pass on.
It’s a big question, I’m thinking. If I ask you how you are feeling, do I want to know?
You would adjust your answer to fit, wouldn’t you? Just as my husband doesn’t go on about thermonuclear physics when our five year old asks why the sun is warm, You’re not going to overwhelm me. You know how small and weak I am, and you love me just the same.
I am your child, and you are my Father. I want you to be happy. I want you to know that I care. If you want to talk to me, I want to listen. Or if you want to share a little bit of silence, then I’d like to learn how to do that too.
You are El Roi. You see me.
Lord God, how are you?