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How Are You Doing?

We ask and answer this question dozens of times every week: "how are you doing?"  The question rolls out of our mouths almost without thought and, though we know it is coming, we rarely have an answer prepared.  The exchange is brief, without expectation of any real depth or connection.  It is a courteous habit disguised as genuine care.  And I think we often prefer it that way.  It is not simply that we do not have the time or concern for those around us, but that we do not take the time to reflect and connect with our own emotions either.  So, when asked, we are "fine" or "OK, thanks for asking" and we move on to the next task.

Sometimes, of course, we encounter a talker (or we are one) who will rehash the events of the day or details of a particular situation that is bothering them.  It can feel exhausting to listen and awkward to respond.  Even this exchange, however, lacks depth since discussing a set of facts is not the same as connecting emotionally with how a person is really doing.  Sure, I hear that you are angry because of some unfair treatment at work, but how are you doing--does that make you feel insignificant, are you considering a new job, does that make you feel insecure, are you scared?  This is the kind of conversation that can feel like crossing a line because it requires vulnerability, not just for the one sharing, but also for the listener.  We need to be in touch with our own emotions to receive their story with empathy.

Yet, I think it is these very conversations we crave.  And those are the conversations God is all about.  King David, begins Psalm 139 confessing that God already knows everything about him, and ends with a desire to know more, "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts."  David is asking for God's insight to help him understand his own emotions better.  We often need help to see what is going on inside ourselves, both from God and from trusted friends and counselors.

Then there are the times Jesus pierces through situations in his own way of testing and knowing, like when encountering a man by the Pool of Bethesda.  Here was a man unable to walk since birth; Jesus questions not just the condition of his body, but also that of his emotional will.
When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?"
John 5:6
If Jesus were to observe whatever is making you feel unwell or less than whole today and ask about your desire to get well, what kind of emotion would that stir?  It always feels a bit like a punch in the gut to me, like Jesus sees past all my excuses and justifications, right to the core of the issue--how am I doing?  He pushes past the anger until I soften, then he gently allows the tears of fear and grief and longing to flow until I am ready to face the world because I have actually faced myself.  Then, like the man at the pool, Jesus tells me to get up and carry on.  I can and I do.

So, I invite you to schedule two very important conversations this week.  First, set some time aside for yourself.  Reflect on how you are really feeling and even ask God to help reveal what is going on inside.  Try not to judge yourself or try to fix anything that comes up, just get in touch with how you are doing.  Then, call someone up this week to arrange a time to have a real, vulnerable conversation.  Let them know you want to talk at a deeper level and try to plan a time and place with few distractions.  If you do not have a friend who feels like a safe person to share with, set an appointment with a pastor or counselor, we would love to hear from you.

Sharing our feelings helps keep them from overwhelming us and builds connection and belonging with others.  The more we share, the more we feel comfortable exploring our own emotions and those of our friends and loved ones.  Now, how are you doing?

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