There was a fellow in college we called Neil “How Ya Doing” Hughes. Neil was a theological student and a hopeful minister. If Neil stuck with his studies, I am sure he is a successful and faithful minister. Neil did have a bad habit. He would ask you, “How ya doing?” No matter what you said Neil’s response was always, “that’s great.” You could tell Neil that your father was in jail, your mother ran off with the postman, and you were being thrown out of school for cheating. Neil would respond, “That’s great” and he would keep walking toward his destination. Neil never stopped to listen, Neil could call everyone by name, but he didn’t know people. He came off as being insecure and superficial. I’m sure that as he matured, he learned to listen carefully, especially if he became a pastor.
We are all guilty of that. There are times that I don’t listen. If you tell me anything on Saturday night, it will not register. My brain has moved to processing the final draft of Sunday’s sermon. Telling me something on Sunday morning is even worse. The only thing in my brain is the sermon. I half kiddingly tell people that on Sunday morning I don’t even know my name. Between services I am concentrating on how to “fix” the sermon from the previous service. If you want to tell me something important you should wait until Monday, otherwise it probably won’t register.
Often, we don’t listen when others are talking. While our listening can be on a superficial level so can what we reveal about ourselves.
We have all been guilty of not listening, but are we guilty of asking a question we really don’t want answered? Are we honest when someone asks us, “How are you?” Have you noticed that people who have bad things happening in their lives will often respond to that question with the answer, “I’m fine.”
George, I know you came home after being laid off and found your house on fire, so “how are you?”
Nine times out of ten, George will tell you that he is just fine.
“I’m fine.” Are you really?
I reserve the word “fine” for people who don’t really care, for people who don’t really want to know how things are, for people who are clueless, for people who are going to dispense Hallmark wisdom, and especially people who want me to change as a precondition for love.
Unspoken behind, “I’m fine,” is an acronym for “Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional, but I don’t trust you enough to tell you that.”
When you come to church you need to know this, “I’m not OK. You are not OK. That is OK.” We all come to church for the same reason, to let Jesus transform us from being “fine” to being found by One who loves us.
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