One Bold Question I Dare You to Ask

I spend a lot of time thinking about other people – thinking about them and praying for them.

Doesn’t that sound lovely and spiritual? It’s not.

To be fair, I’m not completely unloving – to the credit of the work Jesus has done in my life these fifty-some years, but my soul is quite the long-term renovation project.

My friend, Jim Rubart, wrote a book called Rooms about a man who inherits a house that turns out to be a manifestation of his soul. I was thinking about that while sitting in the 120-year-old relentless money-pit renovation project we inhabit.

Good bones. That’s what people say when they take a tour. Great bones. Solid lines. Character. History. “Would they live here?” “Nooooo, no way,” they chuckle as they wave good-bye and head home to a place with no exposed walls and sound wiring.

Somewhere, my life took a turn and walked into a Rubart novel.

Like my home, I have some strong features and a sturdy foundation on which to build, but I’m a long way from livable. So, 

while I spend a lot of time thinking about and praying for other people, much of that sounds like this:

“Lord, make her a better person. Easier to love. Less annoying.” “Father, help him see ways he could treat me kinder and be more generous with loving words.” “Jesus, bless them, please, and send a miracle their way so I don’t have to live any longer with the discomfort of thinking I should inconvenience myself and actually do something to alleviate their situation.”

Those aren’t the words I use, of course, because I’m not a complete fool, but believe me, when the translation comes through in glory, I’m not kidding anyone, but me.

So, during worship this weekend, Jesus decided to do some work in my heart. Our bold and fearless pastor preached a strong sermon on a challenging passage. Ephesians 5:21-6:9. Oh yeah, the submission passage, baby. He went for it because he’s a man who has his fears properly ordered – God first, everyone else second. He teaches through a book of the Bible without skipping the offensive bits.

As a preacher who rightly handles the Word of God, he emphasized the message of mutual submission in this passage and painted a thought-provoking image of what it would be like if God build a community in our midst of people who were committed to submitting to one another. I started thinking about people in the congregation who should really take that sermon to heart.

That’s when Jesus interrupted my regularly scheduled programming with a news flash. “Daughter of mine, you have my permission to spend some time considering how this passage may apply to you.”

What? Me? I’m the poster girl for submission! I work with others just fine. I certainly don’t demand to have everything my way. I mean, maybe in my younger days I struggled, but I not only live this passage, I teach it to others. What do I need to work on from this sermon?

And that’s when He hit me where I live and breathe – “Why don’t you ask someone close to you if there are ways you could improve at living this passage?”

Ahhh, I countered the Almighty. That’s a great idea! I think I’ll blog about that and suggest that we all begin to make a practice of asking those closest to us how we might improve at living the passage taught in church that morning. Great idea, God.

Ahem.

Okay. Fine. I guess I’ll – you know – try it first.

You’d think it would have been easy – this asking part. I really don’t think it’s a glaring problem area in my life, but I’m feeling stretched thin these days. Worn out. Pulled in a dozen directions and not very good at self-protection right now. Why let myself be even more vulnerable?

Right. I’ve been trying to rely on God for protection and not my own devices. Okay, fine. As I sat beside my husband on the porch, I tried to anticipate his answer, but finally decided just to – you know – obey God.

“Hey, honey?”

“Yes?”

“Pastor spent a long time teaching on that Ephesians passage this morning and it got me thinking.”

I noticed him tense up. “Yeah?”

“Are there ways you think I could do a better job at living that passage?”

He stopped rocking and looked at me like I might be having some sort of episode. He wrinkled his eyebrows, but then he smiled. “No, actually. You do a great job in that area. Why do you ask?”

“Just trying to stay open,” I replied as I exhaled.

It’s funny how terrifying it was to open myself up to that, but it was a powerful experience to ask that question. It reminded me how vulnerable we all are to one another. It made me reflect on how hard I try and how much I hoped for mercy from Rob in answering. And it was a cautionary wake-up call to how easy it is to slip into the habit of outsourcing the application of scripture to how everyone else ought to be doing it.

I think, if I can continue to exercise bravery, I’m going to make a habit of this question.

How about you? Are you brave enough to turn to the people closest to you after worshiping this weekend and ask, “Are there ways you think I could do a better job of living that Bible passage?”

How would it change the lunchtime conversation if we opened with that? How might it change our characters, families, congregations, communities, the world?

At the very least, it puts a cramp in the time I spend assessing other people’s lives and considering ways to hint that they should be applying this week’s sermon. That alone should improve the community in my corner of the world. How about you?

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10 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Keri Spradley says:

    Lori,
    This hit me hard.
    I needed to be hit.
    Thank you for loving the Truth enough to share it so boldly.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I missed the sermon that would be my excuse?, but I do get scared of asking question like this because I expect an answer I wouldn’t like and I always want to “win” in the battle with my husband. Thank you for this reflection; I realized I have so many things to work on. May God give me strength.

  3. Sandi says:

    Hi Lori…

    Our Pastor asked us to ask ourselves and examine: “What is it like living on the other side of me?” Then he asked that we consider what that is like for our spouse, children, etc. THEN he challenged us to ask them too! It is bold – and also illuminating.

    Blessings!

  4. Nico van der Merwe says:

    WoW! You have touched a VERY sensitive spot. Thank you for your honesty.

  5. Rob McCullough says:

    This is good Lori and I looked at myself and how I really wouldn’t want to ask that question of my wife or my friends that I know hear from God. Yet I can see the benefit especially as I look for God to speak through them to me. Letting go of the fear and the needing to put on a show for others is good! Blessings Lori!

  6. nancy says:

    It is so easy to think of all the ways other people could apply a sermon. I was having an issue with a friend, and said I’d leave it to God to discuss it with them, since we weren’t getting anywhere (and I was obviously on the right side of the question – even the friend admitted that.) Well, don’t you know that God decided to take ME to task for not doing my part in helping them do theirs. I had to learn to say “no” when the opportunity presented itself, to help them do what they knew to be right.
    I’m not good at unequivocal “no” and never have been. I always try to soften the blow, and that usually only makes matters more frustrating, if not downright negates the word. Help, Lord!
    And now that I have taken my stand, I want to go back! Help, Lord…

  7. Avis says:

    Lori, I loved this blog. I sometimes feel the message is meant directly for me. Just yesterday I was listening to one by a minister on the radio, he said some of the complains we have are caused by jealousy, and for the first time I looked inward and felt guilty. I then prayed that the good Lord will take from me, yet another short coming. Thank God for his grace and for messengers like you who help to show us the way.

  8. Sherry Carter says:

    My pastor occasionally asks this question about a specific point in one of his sermons, “How are you reflecting Jesus in this area? Don’t look around at your spouse, children, family, or friends. This is for you.” It’s convicting!

    Your blogs always bless me, Lori! Thank you for your willingness to write the challenging words the Lord gives you.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Good stuff, er, God-stuff, Lori! 🙂

  10. Joyce Caleca says:

    Can’t wait to get started.