Having moved all the way across the country from Oregon to New York this past February, we’ve been plunged into culture-learning. One of the common ways to greet someone here is the phrase, “Hi! How are ya?” The appropriate response I’ve learned is not “I’ve been up since 4 AM, my back hurts, and there’s a mountain of work in front of me.” No, you’re expected to say “Fine. And you?” Then, move on with your life, letting them move on with their life.
In some ways, this suits me just fine since quite often I’m not willing to divulge my innermost or take time to hear the innermost of another. Let’s just get on with it and get the job done. There’s so much to do! On the other hand, it troubles me somewhere down deep because I’d love to be able to share my burdens and perhaps, receiving some understanding and sympathy in response, move on with life knowing I’m not alone in this.
But there’s the honesty thing, the just keep smiling thing, and the put up a good front thing. Is it dishonest to not answer directly a discerning friend’s inquiry, “Are you okay? Are you not feeling well? You don’t seem yourself.” Is it really wrong or selfish to say, “Oh, I’m just a bit tired” – when unsure about what to say or whether the friend really means to take time to hear the nitty gritty? Maybe the difficulties that come with expressing our hearts so that we’re clearly understood and not put aside as a hopeless nut or bleeding heart case are just too great, most of the time.
Truth be told, it’s not easy to share the innermost struggles and dreams of the heart. I’ve noticed for instance that when I’ve gone through a major life change or face major decisions, that I come close to hating the sensitive friend’s question, “How are you?” How do I answer when typically the answer is caught up in a mix of dreams, weariness, hurt, dissatisfaction, narrowing of options, life’s necessities, covenant responsibilities, thirst for adventure and meaning, and maybe guilt over some endless list of unmet expectations?
The kind of sharing I long for comes in what I call a covenant relationship. It’s the kind of thing I naturally have with the one whose love I’m convinced of and whom I love unconditionally in return.
I can share my life openly with someone that I’m partnered with in making a shared life, or conquering some mountain before us both. And especially, I can share my life with the one who delights in me as a person and who gives energy and time to be with me after discovering that I’m not yet whole. Is that one you? Will you covenant with me to live out our lives together serving the Lord and growing in grace together? Then, I hope you’ve got time for a good cup of coffee because this is going to take a while…
“Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul.”
(1 Samuel 18:3; cf. 1 Samuel 19 ESV)
“But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.”(Romans 5:8 MSG)
“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17 ESV)