My soul is allergic to small talk. It seems false to me. I understand it’s the socially acceptable way to interact in most casual settings, but there is something in me starving for more each time I’m in one of those “how’s it going” kind of conversations. Several years ago, I met a young woman who within the first 3 minutes of conversation shared with me her struggle with mental health, and how she met Jesus while in a padded cell after attempting suicide. I looked straight into her wild blue eyes, gripped her hand and said, “I really, really like you.”
This broken world needs more honest people like that.
No, I’m not encouraging us to throw-up every detail of our lives, on every person who asks us how we are enjoying the weather; that’s just awkward for the sake of awkward. But there are ordained moments when people need to see and hear real life stories, they need to know they are not the only ragamuffin walking around in need of a Savior. God didn’t delete broken stories from the Bible, instead He told them, He left them in print so that humanities’ great need would be obvious. Maybe there’s a lesson there?
I stood in my bathroom flat ironing my hair, a torturous process which takes an hour from start to finish. Kev has learned if there is somewhere we need to be at 6:30 that will require my hair to be tamed, he better tell me we need to be there at 6:00. It’s the only way we will be on time. I pulled the last section of hair through the flat-iron, fogged my head in spray, and we headed out the door to a work dinner….a place where speaking fluent small talk is the only requirement for entering.
As we walked to our table, I was seated next to a woman who spoke with just enough confidence to make me think she wasn’t actually confident at all. That’s not judgement, but rather the simple ability to read in someone else the very thing yours truly has wrestled with a time or two, or 3 or a million. As our ten top table slowly paired off into smaller conversations, she and I found ourselves matched up in “small talk discussion”.
She talked about her work and her kids, she pulled her phone from her purse and shared pictures of a recent trip. I smiled, noticing how all her daughters looked exactly like her. She shared something simple about one of the photographs. I responded sympathetically saying, “That must have been so hard for you.”
That one-sentence response apparently signaled to her it was safe to abandon the small talk, and climb on board to a bigger ship meant for deeper waters. We talked and shared real struggles over the next hour, and none of them had anything to do with the weather.
This world needs more people willing to travel into deep waters with them. We need each other.
The next day Kev ran into her at work and she said, “I want to tell you something I mean as a compliment. I really loved talking to your wife, but she wasn’t at all what I thought she would be.” Kevin laughed, and later told me what she said. I kind of laughed, a little, but have since thought so much about her words. My hunch is she expected pleasantries and small talk, but thankfully we both had an opportunity to share more…and it was good for both of us. Regardless of what she expected that evening, I did nothing while sitting next to her at dinner but listen, and then encourage her that she wasn’t alone in her struggle.
I quit the ministry of writing and teaching 14 times last week, about twice a day. That’s actually a good week. Sometimes it’s 14 times a day. My friend Doug called in the midst of that week and asked me write a few posts for their team at Tiny Hands. Despite the reality I had just quit an hour earlier in my head, I told him yes because the One in me is stronger than discouragement ever will be. He wins every time.
I confessed to this friend of mine, this guy who has become more like a father, “Yeah, I’ll do it, but you should know I’m a train wreck.” He laughed and said, “Perfect. You and I are exactly who the gospel was intended for…the broken, the hurting, and the ones hanging on day to day. We have an awesome God Amy.”
This broken world needs more people like that. More people who will vulnerably share their brokenness, in order to share the One who was broken for all of us.
Jesus didn’t come for the self-righteous. He came for a vagabond group of Matthew 5 kind of people, people like you and me who struggle everyday. The wisest of Pharisees were unable to proclaim the hope that 12 ordinary, broken, down on their luck, uneducated, everyday kind of men were able to ignite all over the world and to the ends of the earth.
Today’s world needs more people just like that.