How many times a day do we ask someone or get asked “how are you?” If you are in a busy workplace, you may get asked this question several times a day. But, if you spend the majority of your time alone in the office (or on the farm) you may not run into anyone throughout the day (like what happens to me on occasion). But, nonetheless, we seem to use the phrase “how are you?” without much thought. It has almost become as second nature and complacent as “hello.” And the response, almost always, without fail is “good” followed normally by “how are you” with the same response. And then we go about our days. When was the last time you either 1) took the time to ask this question and wait for a response other than “I’m good”?” Or 2) you answered honestly?
I’m not asking you to answer out loud, but think about how you might honestly answer when someone asks you “how are you?” What would you tell them? Would you tell someone that you’re well–because you really are feeling well. Or maybe you’d just say you’re well because you don’t feel like going into it right now. Maybe you would be honest and say “I’m tired” because you are. But then maybe again, you’d answer “I’m good” because you don’t need more suggestions on what to do for a better night’s sleep when what you need for a better night’s sleep is an infant that will sleep through the night. Maybe that’s just me.
Would you answer “I’m hungry” because although you’ve had your fill of food this morning at breakfast, your soul is hungering for something and you just can’t seem to put your finger on what your soul needs. Or would you answer “I’m good” because you don’t want someone to try and feed you more food? When someone says “how are you?” would you respond honestly with “I’m lost” because you are? Maybe you’re lost because you’re grieving the death of a loved one. Maybe you’re lost because you’re stuck in a job you don’t like but you can’t afford to be without the pay or benefits. Or, maybe you’re lost because you are feeling like your marriage is failing but knowing how to fix it is almost impossible. Or would you just respond “I’m good” because you fear someone would respond with “you’re lost?!? What can I help you find??”
I have a theory–and it’s just a theory, so I’m willing to entertain the fact that I could be wrong about this. When someone asks us “how are you” we automatically respond with “I’m good” because we don’t want people to know any different. We don’t want to give people the idea that our lives are anything but perfect. It’s like having a house with beautiful landscaping only to have the inside of the house infested with mice. As long as the outside looks good, no one will have any idea what is going on in the inside. It’s the same with us. If we answer “I’m good” no one will know, or find out, what demons we are battling. Because here’s the thing, we seem to think that if people find out we’re not perfect then that could ruin everything. And then what?
So, I want to give you a challenge today, my brothers and sisters, I want you to start answering honestly. And I want you to know that I am taking this challenge myself and it’s not going to be easy. See, this is a little weird, but follow me here. If any of you ask me “how are you” and I answer “I’m good” it’s because I don’t want you to worry about me. I don’t feel like you should do that. I am your pastor, I should be worrying about you. I don’t want you to think that I am unable to be your pastor just because things are not well in my life. So, I answer “I’m good” out of habit. I think it is similar to asking your doctor the same question. You doctor doesn’t want you to be concerned about the job he or she is doing so they would probably respond with “I’m good” because they’re supposed to be taking care of you, not the other way around. Yes, our challenge is this: start answering honestly. And if we’re going to start answering honestly, let’s also take the time to hear the response to “how are you” instead of rushing to the next thing. And if we’re really going to take the time to stop and listen, let’s resist the urge to “fix” the other person.
This is a big challenge, I’m giving you, isn’t it? Don’t worry, you’re not doing this alone. I am going to try doing this more myself. And why? Why should it even matter? What will change in the world if we start answering “how are you” with honesty instead of trying to cover things up? We may not be able to change the entire world, but we might make some small changes in the world around us. See, the disciples were in a boat that was more than just rocking. These were waves that could have easily over-taken them. The disciples really were just one bad wave from drowning; I think some of us may know how that feels.
Then, in their darkest hour, literally, the darkest hour (it was probably somewhere between 2am and 5am) Jesus appears. They were tired, they were scared, they thought they were seeing ghosts. They were in a dark place and Jesus was there. And Jesus speaks to the disciples, “do not be afraid, I am here.” See, Jesus had sent them out into the ocean, perhaps even out into the storm. And here he is to assure the disciples, and us, that he is with them; there is no need to be afraid.
Now, I want to make it very clear here, brothers and sisters, that Jesus does not make really terrible things happen in our lives so that we may know him more or so that we may know him better. What I want you to know is that Jesus makes it okay to say or feel more than “I’m fine” because it’s in the darkness that Jesus finds us. It’s easy for us to see Jesus in the light. But, in the darkness, when we think we’re seeing ghosts or perhaps we’re battling demons, Jesus is there too.
When you are at your lowest point, Jesus is there. When you are at your highest point, Jesus is there. When you’re just average, Jesus is there too. It is when we are honest with ourselves, and everyone around us in expressing how we are that we allow Christ to shine through. Because we were made by God, in God’s image, and God didn’t mess up. When we claim what we are, we claim whose we are. When we claim what we are, we also claim that we are not the ones in charge. When we claim what we are, we also claim that what defines us is something as simple as 1 man, 2 boards, and 3 nails.
How am I? I am tired, honestly. We’ve been sleep training Ellen and it has its ups and downs. How am I? I am feeling a bit more stressed than usual. Chris goes back to school soon and he will start musical rehearsal soon, which means I will take a lot more of the parenting responsibility on myself. How am I? I’m worried. I’m worried about our budget. I’m worried about attendance. I’m worried about the people who are members that I haven’t met yet. Now, I’m not worried about any of these things because there is something wrong with them, but I am worried about them because it is something all pastors worry about, trust me. How am I? Not alone. How are you?