One of the Most Dangerous Questions to Ask

Since I've started my role as the Online Campus Pastor, one of the best things has been all the people I've been meeting. It's dominated my time, meeting with people who are interested in helping out, in some capacity, with the Online Campus. In meeting with people, and getting to know them, we get to know more about each other. Inevitably, my story of overcoming addiction comes up in most of these conversations, and people feel comfortable sharing with me their own stories. Their own joys and heartbreaks.

I like this. I like getting to know people beyond the superficial. It can lead to some interesting conversations.

One day, last week, I had just finished up meeting with a teenager, who is an atheist, that wants to volunteer with the Online Campus. It was a fun and interesting conversation. My mind was thinking through everything, with this potential volunteer, when I was leaving the church to meet with another potential volunteer.

I was walking across the parking lot, and a young woman said, "Hey Robert." A good thing with being more visible at church is people know who I am. However, I don't always necessarily know who they are. So, I quickly respond like all do in this situation. "Heyyyyy!" She starts asking how things are going and we're talking.

She asks if I remember who she is. Dang it! "Can you remind me your name again?" She tells me, and I remember becoming Facebook friends with her in recent weeks.

I ask how she is doing, and I get the standard answer. "Fine." It's said in a way where it's not believable. I follow it up with, "How are you really doing?"

Don't ask that question unless you mean it. I wanted to know.

She responds with the truth, and it's not easily digestible. It's going to take a few minutes to unpack what is shared. Even though I'm on my way to another meeting, I take five minutes to talk and listen more to her.

The conversation ends on a good note, and I head out to my original meeting. Except, now my mind is really swirling from the two conversations I've just had. The next meeting I start with, "Can you give me a minute to mentally shift into this conversation?" The guy I'm meeting with laughs, I take a breath, and we start talking.

"How are you doing?" You ever respond to that question with the truth and see the person's eyes widen with recognition of, "I did not want this."

We have stories to share. We carry good news and bad news. Often, people ask how we are doing with no care of how we really are doing. So we don't tell anyone, and the bad news becomes a burden that we carry around. People are afraid to share because a lot of people don't care. They pretend that everything is "fine" so they aren't rejected when sharing. We need to care. We need to care, even if it is a burden. When the door is opened, we need to enter into people's story. We need to be a friend.

Two weeks ago, I had an on-call pastor situation. A woman walked in and wanted to talk with a pastor. She was in legitimate financial need. She was married, a mother, and attended the church, but had not shared with anyone because of the shame she felt. As I talked and prayed with her, I was glad that she had taken that first step to get help. That can be the hardest step sometimes to take. I was also troubled, though. I know there are so many more people that are hurting and keeping it to themselves. Especially within the church, people put on a facade of everything being fine when it isn't. This can't be the case. We need to be true friends to people in need. We need to act like Jesus when people are facing trials.

We need to be willing to respond, like Jesus would, when we ask, "How are you doing?"

This post was originally published on Robert Murphy's personal blog, RamHatter.