Search This Blog

Sunday, November 07, 2010

How are you?

It's an innocent question, really. Often it's asked without any real expectation of an answer. Sometimes when it is asked, the answer is really more information than was wanted. You'll run into an acquaintance and the natural question that seems to come to mind is inevitably, "How are you?"

Typically, the answer is something like "Fine." I notice that talk show hosts get asked this question a lot. I listen to Dave Ramsey, for instance, on the radio. He takes questions from callers regarding their finances. No matter how many callers there are, the vast majority of them start the conversation by asking Dave how he is.

Mind you, he's already answered the question 20 times in the last hour! Still they ask. Being the gentleman that he is, David usually has a pat response ready: "Better than I deserve!" Of course, that doesn't really disclose the current condition of Dave Ramsey. Then again, I'm pretty sure the callers aren't calling to find out how Dave is.

Now throughout my own lifetime, I have to say that I've been pretty blessed in that I am usually just fine. That's not to say that I've not had problems. Quite frankly, there've been many periods in my life when I concluded that life wasn't worth living. I was mad at God for making suicide a sin.

Can you imagine how people might have responded if I'd answered their question truthfully? I confess, I've usually just always said that I am fine ... even when I'm not. Does that make me a liar? I guess maybe it does. My motive was probably more on the righteous side of things though. I didn't want to burden others with the sour outlook on life that I had at the time. Then again, I sometimes cynically wondered if they really cared. I've often thought that people who ask how I am really don't want to know. They're just making small talk. Or being polite.
As a follower of Christ, I have to say the question changed. Or rather the motive behind the question and the answers both changed. When I ask someone how they are today, it's a pretty good bet that I do want to know. I love them and sincerely have their goodwill at heart. When someone asks me how I am today, I often recognize it as genuine and sincere concern for my goodwill as well. So no longer am I cynical about asking or answering that question: "How are you?" That's the power of God's transforming grace for you. Go figure.

Recently, I've uncovered a new dimension of that question, "How are you?" I was hospitalized with a back injury that was rather severe. Partial paralysis, nerve damage and a great deal of pain have been mine to bear. It's been a long, slow recovery process. Physical therapy, doctors' appointments, medications and other venues are part of my routine nowadays. And when people ask how I am, I answer truthfully. I'm just a little perplexed by the response I get when I answer the question truthfully and disclose the nature or some of the extent of my present challenges.

There seems to be a rather large camp of people who've had similar back injuries and related back pain. That was the first surprise. In fact, it sometimes seems as if I might be the last man on earth to face this malady! So from this camp, I don't get sympathy, encouragement or offers of prayer or support. Rather I get advice. I'm given the names of doctors, specialists, treatment programs, medical massage therapists, physical therapists and more.

Everyone seems to have an opinion regarding what I should do. Even people who've not actually been in my shoes or similar shoes. They just know someone who has. And they've seen how well so-and-so did with this therapy, specialist, treatment, etc. So they know exactly what I should do. Ironically, they'll even follow up with me later to see if I've done what they told me to do. I find myself feeling just a bit defense because it feels as if they disapprove of my present course of action. It's as if they conclude that what I'm doing is not working - as evidenced by the fact that I'm still challenged in this area.

The thing is, if I did what everyone told me to do, I'd have to quit my job and spend my life savings on medical expenses. I'd have to thumb my nose at my health insurance company, and maybe even the doctors I've been seeing. I'd be in doctors' offices, on massage tables, etc. every single day. So the burden is on me to ferret these things out and see if any of it seems to have merit for me personally.

Don't get me wrong, it's not that I'm ungrateful. It's just that the advice is coming at me far to quickly and in too much volume for any of it to have any real practical advice. I'm reminded of an old adage that says, "When everyone is talking, it's hard for anyone to be heard." Frankly, I'm getting so much advice that I can't use any of it.

So my perspective is starting to change. I'm considering adopting a different strategy when answering that age-old question, "How are you?" How am I? Well I have some health challenges right now. But those are circumstances. And circumstances are never truth. I've known that for some time now.

The truth is that I'm mightily blessed by a wondrous God whom I adore. Yes, I have some cross carrying to do. (Doesn't everyone at one point or another?) But when I consider the burdens that some people have to carry in this life, mine pale in comparison. I'm thinking it may be best not to talk about how I am. Or at least to change the perspective I use to develop the answer.

You see, like radio show host Dave Ramsey, I really am "better than I deserve." And I'm not trying to be cute here. What I deserve in life is considerably worse than what I've received. Credit God's goodness, His loving mercy, His forgiveness, His immense power, His wisdom, and even the leadership of His Holy Spirit. I've got a direct channel with my Father in heaven. His Son saved me and makes me holy every day (in spite of myself). His Spirit guides me and teaches me.

God has given me good health throughout most of my life. He's blessed me with more financial security than I ever imagined for myself. I have a loving family, lots of deep friendships, engaging work, exhilarating recreation, and I sleep really well most nights. Oh yeah, I almost forgot --- I've got some back trouble and am having to accommodate that right now, but I'm a blessed man in every sense of the word. My present challenges in no way cancel or overshadow my present blessings.

So --- how are you today?

No comments:

Post a Comment