September 9, 2013

talking about forever

Have you ever noticed how 90% of the compliments we (women in particular) pay one another are about essentially inconsequential things?

“I like your hair today.”

“That sweater looks nice on you!”

“Where did you get your purse? I like it.”

“You have a beautiful smile!”

Or, my personal favourite: “Nice phone!” (How do you even respond to that compliment? "Thanks, I'm glad I had the money to buy a nicer phone than yours"?)

You've probably received compliments like the above, and you've probably given some of these compliments too. They are small encouragements that make our days more cheerful. But I've noticed that we often praise friends for things that:
   (a) money can buy (clothing, accessories, haircuts, cars) or
   (b) they received at birth (straight teeth or beautiful hair)
And rarely do we praise our friends for things of lasting value. Day in and day out, our conversations, however positive, are often full of these trival things.

(Don't misunderstand, a compliment about physical appearance can bless another person or reassure an anxious heart. When you spend an hour getting ready for a special event, it's nice to know you look good. God made us to enjoy that kind of beauty.) 

It's just that too often we settle for good instead of best in our conversations. We live on the plane of the visible and temporary and God is beckoning us to belong to the world of the unseen, which lasts forever. He's calling us to talk like women who have eternity in focus. Every day, every word, every compliment, is an opportunity to choose which plane we'll focus on. Whatever we affirm, we confirm as being important. If we compliment the external nine times out of ten, we are encouraging the external nine times more than the internal or spiritual. It's simple math.

Why don't we compliment the things that last forever? I think that often it is because we see mostly with our flesh-eyes, and not with our spirit-eyes. We see fashion, not fruit; glasses, not godliness. Or if we do compliment people on their spiritual qualities, I've noticed that we often find it easier to write than to speak of such things. On birthdays we write sweet cards. For celebratory dates we commend each other with letters. But how often do we sit, face to face with someone and tell them which traits of Chr!st or fruit of the Spirit you see in them? It seems to me that it is something we should do more intentionally, and more often.

Calling out the good fruit you see in someone else's life is an eternal activity in and of itself. It is life-giving and encouraging. A few times my team here in Asia has come around me and told me what they appreciate about me. They didn't tell me that I wear cute scarves or have a nice smile. They talked about spiritual qualities. A comment like, "I can see that you love J'sus” is immeasurably more valuable than telling me that my hair looks nice. It both encourages me (in saying that there is fruit in my life) and exhorts me (to continue abiding in Him).

How often do we not serve others in conversation simply out of a selfish fear of exposure? Because we wonder what others will think if we change the way we speak? Sometimes we don't open up about such things because we don't want to be cheesy. But is it really cheesy?

If the conversational topics we choose in our spare time are mostly earthly things (or if we fear man more than we fear God), it shows where our minds are. If we want our tongues to focus on what's eternal, our minds must focus there first. 
Maybe a little less Pinterest and a little more Philippians is in order. Less social media and more psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. As our eyes catch His vision, our mouths will speak of it.

A smart phone, a manicure, a tan? 
Anyone can pursue these things.

A gentle and quiet spirit?
Joy in the midst of strenuous circumstances?
Patience with a difficult person?
Self control in a tempting situation?
A hunger for His Word and His work?
Humble boldness in truth-telling?
These are evidence of His work. 
These are evidences of eyes fixed on forever.

Call out the things you want to encourage. As we set our minds on things above, may our tongues be known for complimenting those things which last forever. 

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for writing out your thoughts. They are an encouragement to The Body.

    Joy, another in Asia

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for encouragement, Joy!

    ReplyDelete