“Hey! What’s up? How are you doing?”
All too often, we ask these questions out of habit more than out of genuine concern for someone. We lob the inquiry out there without any intention of hearing a response. If we pose the question to a stranger on the sidewalk or an elevator, we only do so as a kind gesture. If we ask a friend, we don’t expect a thoughtful answer that might draw us into the real-life drama and trauma of their lives. It is more of a formality in the greeting moment. Before the question is even completely out of our mouths, we’ve already mentally moved on to something or somewhere else.
A few weeks ago, we started our senior high event by hanging a few giant pieces of paper on the wall. Across the top of each page, we wrote, “I am...” and asked each youth to complete the sentence however they wished. The honesty and vulnerability astounded me.
I am... Anxious. Chocolatey. Confident. Confused. Content. Curious. Dead inside. Disappointed. Excited. Exhausted. Full. Happy. Hopeful. Joyful. Looking forward to something. Loved. Okay. Out of patience! Overwhelmed. Prepared. Pumped. Sore. Stressed. Taking deep breaths. Thinking about a lot of things. Tired. Unique. Excited. Worn Out. Weird. Wondering. Woman.
Right there in our Fellowship Hall, these teens were willing to scribble down the real-life answers to where they found themselves on a Sunday night, no matter whether they were chocolatey, looking forward to something, worn out, or dead inside. Imagine how many other feelings must have been swirling around in their hearts and spirits that they didn’t share with the community? If we listen after we initiate conversation, we can discover exuberant joys and deep sorrows. If we pay attention, others invite us into their lives and experiences.
This Lent, we’ll spend our Wednesday worship times exploring a series of “I am” statements which show up in the Gospel according to John. As Jesus reveals himself to others, he says, “I am the Bread of Life. I am the Light of the World. I am the Door. I am the Good Shepherd. I am the Resurrection and the Life.” What is Jesus trying to tell everyone within earshot about who he is? What might Jesus be saying to us? How do these metaphors invite us into a greater understanding of how God interacts with us and embraces us with an everlasting love?
We have God’s full attention. God asks us how we are doing and sticks around to listen to our response. In our moments of thrill and celebration, as well as our despair and lament, the Creator of the Universe is attentive to the pleas of our voice and heart.
Living in hope,