Let me ask you a question. What is the state of your soul this week?
Now, what is your reaction to that question? How would you answer it? How would you feel about asking that question to another person and then truly allowing time to listen to their answer? Did it make you feel uncomfortable? Did it seem ridiculous?
Last week a good friend of mine asked me that question. Prior to that, I’m not sure if I have ever really been asked it in that way before. It caused me to pause. It caused me to think. It caused me to look within. It caused me to take stock. It caused me to open up and invite someone else in.
The funny thing is, he felt the need to preface the question with a comment on where it came from and how he had come to ask it of others himself. He also commented that when he has asked that question, rarely is it asked of him in return.
The truth is, that question makes us uncomfortable. That question doesn’t quite fit the shape of our culture. When you ask me how I’m doing as we pass one another, the correct answer is “fine” as I keep walking. And if I ask you that question, rarely do I even pause to show you that I’m really wanting to listen and know how you truly are.
But as uncomfortable as this question may make us feel, it is a VITAL question for us to both ask and answer, spiritually.
I presented this challenge to our church family on this past Sunday as I preached through Psalm 119:25-32. You can listen to that sermon here, if you’d like. As we reflected on this passage together as a Life Group last night, I was struck with a thought:
In my experience, nothing silences a group of folks in preparation to pray like asking for specific requests regarding their spiritual walk. We can spend all day listing requests for ailments and for others. But as soon as we place the focus on spiritual introspection…crickets.
I think the fact that this question makes us so uncomfortable offers a glimpse into the anemic state of discipleship in our context. And I so appreciate my brother asking me that question. I also appreciate his true willingness to listen to and engage my response…and his willingness to open up and give his own answer.
Following Christ often calls us to swim against the powerful current of our culture. We need to see how this is the case even in the private way we engage one another, and not just in the big showy ways we typically attribute to that idea. My prayer is that I wouldn’t just adopt this question as one to ask from time to time. My prayer is that this question and the desire it contains would work its way into the normal way I interact with my brothers and sisters in Christ.
So, here is the challenge I posed to our church family on Sunday: Find one person with whom you can mutually commit to asking each other that question, to answering one another honestly, to listening to one another diligently, and to praying for one another fervently, at least once a week.
This is one of the ways that the Church should shine brilliantly amidst the darkness of the surrounding culture. It should be a place where everyone feels freedom to answer that question honestly, without the fear of being condemned or cancelled, as we all press into maturity in Christ together. It should be a place where we are increasingly as comfortable talking about our spiritual state as we are about talking about our jobs and sports.
Let’s pursue that together!