A favorite book series of mine is the Mitford Series by Jan Karon. I am well aware that admitting that automatically puts me in the not-so-hippest of groups. Just don't dismiss me completely yet, as there are many other books I love as well that might give me a little more literary cred. The wisdom gleaned from this series of books written with thought and kindness, through a small community possessing everyday, real life heartbreak and triumphs is truly immeasurable, and these books are ones I often refer back to just as much as a non-fiction books written specifically for spiritual growth.
One of the many characters in these books is a girl/woman named Puny Guthrie. During her typical day of keeping house for the aging Father Tim, she shares with him that her mother, who died when she was young, had a daily ritual as she lay sick in bed. She would gather her daughters around her and share a bit of wisdom for the day. She would pick a topic and share a few short sentences about it, whether it be how to clean house or how to pick a fellow to marry, and then lay back down, spent from the activity. Puny shares that she has never forgotten each of the lessons her mother taught because when someone says so little about something you remember what they say. Even now I can't get over what a wonderful lesson this is on intentionality and conciseness.
Another popular character that comes to mind in this regard is Mrs. Gump. As Forrest says, "Mama always had a way of explaining things so that I could understand them." And while Forrest himself was a man of few words, he talked the ears off of whomever happened to be sharing his bench. He also remembered everything the people in his life told him and not only applied it to life but also passed it on to others. It is invaluable to "listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future." (Proverbs 19:20) but then in turn to "let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom..." (Colossians 3;16). Lessons don't mean as much if you keep them to yourself. No bushel hiding and whatnot please!
Unfortunately, as wonderful, (or not so wonderful in some cases) as the 'influencers' in your life are, not everyone has a variety of wise sayings and lessons overflowing from their lives ready to pour out on their actions and impact their surroundings. I have many people who I love and respect who impacted my life in a variety of ways, and the older I get the more thankful I am for them. But the problem is it has taken age and experience to truly realize how valuable the lessons I learned were, and on the other side how difficult it can be to not have learned certain lessons earlier in life.
I could share with you the all familiar "hindsight is 20/20" or the whining that might have come out of my mouth more than a few times during our difficult season when I would sit and say "but if someone had just told me ___________ then I could have avoided all of this."
Listed (because I love me some lists) in my head are the countless things I wish I knew, I wish I had learned earlier, or I wish I didn't have to learn in such hard ways. But no matter if it were my deaf ears at the time, or the lack of sharing from an authority figure in my life, my God is sovereign, and the things He brings up in my life in His time and for His purpose are for His plan and ultimate glory. So I'm trying to whine a little less about it. Trying, yes. Succeeding all the time, no.
One such lesson, or words of wisdom I should say, that came up recently and completely rocked my heart and mind came from a quote found when helping with research for a 3rd grade history project.
"Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people" - Eleanor Roosevelt
I love when God throws things at me at times I least expect them, like a reassuring text from a friend just to let you know they are thinking about you.
This quote did not technically provide any new information but it very clearly, concisely, and intentionally took all the mini lessons learned about words from late toddlerhood on up, and packaged them into a very clear answer as to why words are needed, and what it does when they are and are not used well.
I immediately started mentally scrolling through my conversations with family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers and measuring them to this new standard. I began to understand why some conversations are draining, some not fulfilling and others completely life giving. As a self professed terrible small talker, I could see how I often took the easy way out and turned to the first level of conversation over and over again.
It's tempting to assume "small minds discussing people" only refers to gossip and slander... typical of the mean girl conversations we all had in middle school or high school even if we won't admit it out loud, yet we still carry on, constantly convicted or not, well into the gray haired lady stages. This is a huge problem in the hearts of many, myself unfortunately included. And if we stop at thinking that we don't speak in ugly ways about others, we are missing a vast part of the lesson, and in turn a big opportunity for growth.
One can also read into it a a type of shallow conversation. Chats with no depth, standing and talking about the simple topics of kids in school, family facts, jobs and new interests without asking deeper questions, without sharing vulnerable answers and letting emotion show, without being too transparent, without becoming uncomfortable or too revealing. Instead, we skim the surface of polite questions and answers.
Simple is easy, small is easy, but when God calls you to a life in Christ, you are promised many things, the best of which is the Hope that comes with Christ. But we are warned, in no uncertain terms, that it will not be easy. When Jesus says “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:13-14) we see a glimpse of the difficult but also the beauty that comes through following it.
There is a place for updating others on the lives of people and the events that are taking place in your life. The ones who love you or desire to know you, love all of you and desire to know all of you, and that includes the people you know and the events you take part in...but don't stop there.
Uncomfortable or not, tread deeper. Ask the harder questions, answer the harder questions, and take the wisdom you learn and the ease that comes through practice and pass it along to others. You will help them tread deeper as well, to instead walk through the narrow gate that will lead to more opportunities to obey God's call and influence others to do the same.
So many things begin with just a conversation, and take on a life of their own, where ideas become realities that change the hearts of others and in turn change our world.
My husband has joked that guys' nights last so long because it takes a lot of staring into the fire pit flames, a good many topics, and a beverage or two, to ease past the small talk to then tread into the great and deep. (I might be in trouble now for revealing such secrets, since everything that happens during guys' night stays at guys' night!)
For me, I become even more thankful for the friends I can jump right in with. The ones that no longer require easing, but instead the conversation just picks back up, covering all manner of thoughts, feelings, and ideas in the middle of a zoo day, in front of a basket of chips with salsa, or while navigating the confusing maze of IKEA aisles.
“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found lacking; it has been found difficult and left untried.” — G.K. Chesterton
My greatest desire is to share my heart, my screw ups, and my lessons learned, and hopefully encourage others to do the same. We are but specks in the vastness of the world, but we are specks who are wholly loved by a Holy Father, and we are used to do mighty things.
I hope for great minds stemming from deeper words influenced by a loving Savior.
Pray for me, I'll be praying for you.