Three Steps Beyond The Superficial To The Genuine

 

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“How are you?”

We’ve all responded to those three little words with the plastered smile and the all too familiar words “I’m good!” All while inside our hearts are yearning for relationship and community with others, for someone to really want to listen as you share the not so “good” answer and to just know that there is someone who really does care.

So often we are quick to ask someone how they are doing whether it be in formality or just small talk and expect nothing in return but a good, positive answer. But what if when we ask we don’t keep walking by, we don’t mess with our phones or look around the room for someone else, and we take the time to really listen and let someone know that we really do care what’s going on in their lives?

Now I know there are people who love to tell you everything thing that’s going wrong in their lives every time they talk to you, but I can’t help but wonder how many people they tried to tell and they didn’t really listen so they keep searching for one who will? We may have to limit our time exposed to deep negativity, but first, we may want to be sure it’s true negativity and not thirst for love, relationship, and community.

We are wired for relationship. Inside all of our hearts lies the desire to be loved, cared about, and to matter to somebody, somewhere.  We read throughout scripture the importance of building one another up and encouraging one another, spurring one another on to love and good deeds, and not to seek our own good but the good of others. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9:22-23 that he becomes all things to all people for the sake of the gospel, shouldn’t we?

Rather those we’re talking to are believers or not, they need to be heard. I am a firm believer that there are no coincidences in life. I believe God orchestrates and divinely appoints every meeting, whether it’s a close friend passing by in church and we’re saying hello, or a stranger in the grocery store. He places people on our paths for a reason. He knows they need a listening ear, some encouragement, a reminder of who He is by how we respond, or maybe even an encounter with Him through us because they do not know Him, just yet.

Superficial – external; outward; concerned with or comprehending only what’s on the surface or obvious; shallow.

God has brought me to a point in my life where I have become very aware of superficial relationships, meetings, and encounters in more ways than one. But I want to share two of them with you in hopes of encouraging you.

The first being in our relationship with Jesus Christ. How many superficial encounters have we had with Him? Those quick prayers rather than getting on our knees and basking in His presence and really sharing our heart with Him, and allowing Him to share His heart with us through His Word. Those days where we keep pushing Him to the side while we run aimlessly down our to do list only to fall in to the bed at night with yet another quick prayer that remains on the surface or obvious. When we spend time together with Christ in true relationship we will have our greatest need for relationship fulfilled. He is always there to listen, and His love is unfailing and everlasting!  Our hearts can only be satisfied by being in an intimate relationship with Him.

The second being our relationships with others. During some trying times in my life when circumstances were difficult, I found myself needing someone to just listen. I didn’t need advice, I didn’t need to say the overused, “I’m good” with a plastered smile. I desperately needed someone to look at me and say, “are you really?” and not stop there, but really take time to listen to my heart. Sometimes we’re so quick to ask someone how they are but then not pause long enough to give them a chance to be honest. We want to keep everything on a superficial level, being only concerned with what’s on the surface. The question is why? There could be many reasons but my conversation with you today isn’t to answer that question. Rather I want to share three things that God has shown me that we can do to move past superficial to genuine relationships.

  1. Go beyond the walking Hello – Rather in our relationship with Christ or one another, let’s go beyond saying “Hello” as we keep walking by with our own agenda.
  2. We can simply engage and listen. –  We see countless times Jesus encountered individuals, engaged in conversation with them, and He simply listened. He knew it was in the listening they would speak their true need and He would have the opportunity to make His message relevant to their life and situation. Look at the story of the Woman at the Well. Yes, Jesus would ask her thought-provoking questions, but He could only do that because He genuinely engaged in conversation with her and she responded because she knew He was listening. If He would have simply said, “Hello, how are you” and moved on, think about how that story could have turned out differently. When we actively engage in conversation and listen, we could have the opportunity to make His message relevant to their life and situation. It could be a matter of a life saved and a life lost, a matter of hope for the hopeless.
  3. Worry less about what’s drained and more about what’s filled. –  Life isn’t always going to be fun, exciting, and laughs. There are times it’s going to be sad, serious, and difficult to face. We need to be there for people during both. We can get so caught up in how listening to them makes us feel that we never stop to think or imagine how they must be feeling seeing as how they are the ones in the situation. We read all through the book of Psalms how David poured His heart out to God. We see that God listens and He loves. What an example to us in how to be in relationship with one another! He never worries about me draining Him, He’s more concerned with filling me with His love, mercy, and the truth of His promises. He fills me with hope.What if we started today to simply walk in these examples and move past superficial relationships to genuine relationships? How could we make an impact for God’s Kingdom and truly show the love of Christ to everyone we meet?

If you’re one who is plastering on a smile now, I am praying for you. I want you to know that God hears every word, sees every tear and He’s sending someone in your path to genuinely listen and I’m praying they are sensitive to His calling. You are loved, valued, and heard! Be encouraged!

If you’re one who is experiencing a mountaintop, I am praying for you. I want you to know that God is using you in the lives of every life around you. He knows you know Him, you have hope, and you’ve seen the other side of the valley, and He needs you to share that with those around you who need to hear it for the first time, or be reminded of it for the hundredth time. You are loved, valued, and you’ve been heard, be an encourager!

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit,if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” {Philippians 2:1-5}

Real Life Moments: The Fridge Cleaning Mission for Wisdom

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Wait…What? The Fridge?

That was my initial thoughts on a Saturday afternoon as I sat alone talking with God about life. I was pouring out my heart and soul, laying all of my brokenness and confusion down at His feet, and as I desperately pleaded for wisdom and guidance, I got still and eagerly anticipated to hear from Him. When in the stillness I heard a whisper, “Go and clean out the fridge.” Wait…What? The Fridge? “Go and clean out the fridge.” I sat there very confused for a few moments and said, okay Lord. I’m not sure why You want me to clean out the dirty, stinky fridge, but I know You always have something to teach me. Besides, it was almost the first of the month and time to go grocery shopping, so this will be good.

As I opened the refrigerator door there was a horrible smell that took over the entire room. I wasn’t sure what it was just yet, but I knew this was going to be interesting! Sure, I could gag and be a girl, or I could be a scientist digging to find the mystery in the fridge that had enough power to change the entire atmosphere before me. Okay, okay, so I gagged, but I am a girl!

As I started to pull things out from the back that looked as if it could have been a part of my 3rd grade science project, my mind started wandering. What is it God is wanting to teach me in this? How could this be the answer to my prayer for wisdom and guidance? My family will tell you I have an over analytical mind and I need to know the reasoning behind things, the answers, the facts, the truths. So I started digging and well, to be honest, I had a lot more of that gagging reflex going on than I really cared to admit.

I pulled out a garbage bag, shook it open, and got ready for the mission of guidance and wisdom before me. Garbage bags began to meet what definitely over stayed their welcome, including moldy ham and cheese from the top drawer. It seemed as if no matter how much I threw away, the smell wasn’t going with it!

Just then, I pulled out the bottom two drawers and WHAM! Mayday, Mayday, Whoa! Houston, we found the problem! There laid the stink just beneath the drawers, all hidden where no one could see it, but everyone could smell it! What was it? I have no clue! I don’t think a scientist in the world could have figured out that mystery! So I filled one of the drawers with hot, soapy water, grabbed a dish cloth and a big plastic spoon to scrape it away (yes, it was that bad). I would like to say the gagging phase of this mission was over, but…ahem, yeah, not so much.

I scrubbed and scraped and wiped clean for what seemed like forever. I thought to myself, this is good enough, that was a lot of work. But something inside of me kept saying, keep scrubbing, you have to get every speck of it out of there. The scrubbing continued until every last piece was gone.

Before I knew it, the fridge was cleaned out, it smelled good, and it shined. It was ready to receive more groceries and had plenty of room for the good stuff. The whole time I was cleaning, God was speaking to me. In spite of the commotion, I could hear His still small voice whispering right into the depths of my heart. So what did God have to say through this fridge cleaning mission?

First, in any and all situations where we’re seeking guidance and wisdom, we must start by cleaning out everything in our heart that doesn’t belong there. Over time we all let things build up in our hearts we meant to get rid of but instead pushed to the back and left sitting there. Just like the moldy cheese and ham I pulled out of the top drawer, we have things in our heart that if we let sit there one second too long, it becomes like mold that takes over.

Second, dig deep, get it all, and don’t leave a single trace or the stink will stay. Most of the time those things we leave deep in our hearts are hidden to us, but the stench fills the atmosphere around us and everyone smells it. If I would have left just one tiny piece of whatever was hidden beneath those drawers, the smell would have stayed and all that work would have been for nothing. We have to let God clean out the deep and hidden places of our hearts and not leave one single trace or the stink will stay.

Finally, when we surrender to Him and let Him scrape away everything that doesn’t belong in our hearts, it makes room for the good stuff! Our hearts are clean, prepared and ready to shine for Him. We can’t receive what He has for us if our hearts are full of attitudes, sin, bitterness, anger, deception, or any stink. We have to let God get every speck of it out of there.

The bonus reminder was we can only remove things from our own hearts, not anyone else’s! Now, if that isn’t a wisdom nugget worth millions that will save us more heartache than we could ever imagine, I’m not sure what is. God reminded me that day that I am only responsible for what’s in my heart. I can’t change any other, and it’s always best and most important to start with my own, and He will take care of the rest. After all, we have to guard our hearts because everything we do flows from it. I’m thankful that when I prayed for wisdom that day God delivered it abundantly. When we ask, He gives generously without finding fault.

God has a way of teaching us things that we may not understand when He leads us there but it’s always worth obeying. If you’re going through something today and looking for wisdom and guidance, trust Him and where He’s leading You. It’s going to be good! 

Bottom Line Truth:
“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” {Luke 6:45}

Lord, help us to open our hearts to You and surrender what we’ve kept buried for too long. We want to be clean and ready to receive all that You have for us, the abundant life You have promised. Please don’t leave a speck of the stink! ~In Jesus Name, Amen.