I’m going to ask you a question – and I want you to answer to yourself… but pay attention to HOW you answer it – because most of us will have a knee-jerk response to the question.
"How ya doin?"
We likely hear that question daily – and if you work with the public like maybe at a grocery store, you probably hear it a hundred times each day. How ya doin? Most of us have a standard answer: fine, not bad, awesome. These aren’t bad responses, but they don’t REALLY answer the question –because we can’t – and don’t really WANT to answer that question to everyone who asks – because that they don’t really WANT to know the answer!
But in December, a young lady who is quickly becoming a close friend asked a different question:
"How is your heart?"
The question stopped me in my tracks…. I mean, That question takes on a whole ‘nother dimension. It’s obviously not just your standard greeting which we can answer in the grocery line. This question is more piercing – like the scalpel of a surgeon – it wants to cut below the surface relationship and dig into questions like ‘what makes you tick’ – or ‘what grief are you dealing with’.
To really answer a question at that level changes you…. And it also changes your relationship…. Think about that…. Answering ‘how ya doin?’ doesn’t even scratch the surface – but “how’s your heart”…. That involves sharing – REAL sharing – being vulnerable - opening up your heart….not only to let OUT some of your pain – but to let IN the love that is offered through friendship.
Which brings me back to the Gospel…Did you notice the question that Jesus asked the two disciples on the road to Emmaus? As we read it, we likely didn’t even hear it – because it doesn’t sound like part of the real action –but it is SO important. The questions in our lives are powerful.
In this case, Jesus asked “What are you discussing as you walk along?”
Simple question – but it tells us a lot. Jesus is giving us an example of how to evangelize – how to share the good news. Notice, he doesn’t just run up and say, look, I’m alive! Repent and Believe! He doesn’t run up and point out their sins or ask them if they’ve been SAVED. He doesn’t start spouting off to them about doctrine or morality or anything really – his first move is to ask the question: 'what are you discussing?’.
See, Jesus recognized they were downcast – grieving – and his question was intended to draw them out of their inner turmoil – to open their hearts – to reveal to Him where their pain was. THEN, and only then, could He speak into that grief. Questions can be powerful. When Jesus asked the question, the disciples had to put a name to their grief. They were obviously depressed and sinking further as they shared their disappointments with each other walking along – Maybe it's a coincidence, but Jerusalem is built on a hill... so leaving Jerusalem, the disciples were headed DOWN... figuratively heading into the downward spiral of despair.
But Jesus' question pulls them out of their funk – makes them define it – name it. For a lot of people – that act alone can be healing – just naming the monsters that scare us can help us realize they’re not so big. Naming our problems is like going to the doctor… the hardest part is often identifying the problem – naming it - diagnosing. Then, and only then can they take their scalpel and try to heal us.
Once Jesus knows their pain, or actually – once He gets THEM to NAME their pain….to open their hearts… THEN He speaks hope directly into their hearts…into their grief. He opened up the scripture to show that everything that happened HAD to happen. It wasn’t the end of the world… this was part of God’s plan! Notice the pattern here: Jesus asked them to open their hearts BEFORE He opened scripture to them. Can you imagine walking with Jesus and having him personally reveal the meaning of scripture to you? Wow – I’m positive all of our hearts would be burning within us as well. Notice too that immediately they returned to Jerusalem… figuratively, they head UP – back out of the depths of despair.
How can we apply this to our lives?
First – as disciples – our Mission is to share the good news with everyone. How? Follow Jesus’ example… start by asking questions. See - If I jump immediately into hot-button morality issues or political statements, nobody will listen to me. If I point out their personal sins and moral flaws, I’ll introduce nobody to Jesus. If I complain about what the people in the church or government are doing or not doing – I’m just a noisy gong or a clanging symbol. None of those topics get to the real point of evangelization: we MUST build relationships. In order to build relationships, we have to get to the point of opening our hearts to one another – and the example given to us by Jesus himself is to START by asking questions.
Many people are grieving right now. Uncertainty about health, job, worried about loved ones, grieving the loss of a parent and they didn’t get to say goodbye because no visitors allowed…. Frontline workers, worried about bringing something home to their kids… there’s lots of pain and grief out there right now. People are hurting, and you and I are called to touch their hearts.
Consider for a moment the encounters you’ve had with people in the last week – both in person and on social media. How many of them have been superficial – how many of them went deep? We don’t have to go deep with everyone, but try this – next time you’re in the check-out and you ask how the clerk is doing – go just a little deeper. Ask a question that touches their heart. I tried it this week – last time I’d seen this cashier she was VERY stressed out because of the overwhelming crowds in the stores a month ago – so I mentioned that I’d noticed her stress and asked if it was better. That got her talking…she opened up. It did her good to be seen as a person and not just a cashier – and it does you and me good too by forcing us to open our eyes to the people around us.
Like my friend who asks, ‘how is your heart’… I know that when we ask that question of each other, this is going to be more than a superficial conversation. Now – it doesn’t always have to be a conversation that requires Kleenex – but just knowing there is a person who cares about me and is willing to be vulnerable with their feelings – and take time to just sit and listen - that softens my heart…. I’ve noticed in the past month, many people are eager for that kind of relationship. We all ache, in fact, for intimate relationships with one another and with our Lord. We were made in the image and likeness of God – who IS a relationship of Father/Son/and Spirit. That desire for relationship is built-in to our DNA.
And it’s when we share that kind of heart to heart friendship – answering the deeper questions – THAT is when our eyes are finally opened to recognize Christ right in front of us.