The “Cannot-Find-That” Rule
I have three boys and four girls. Boys and girls see life differently. My opinion here–girls have more common sense. For example, we have the “cannot-find-that” rule. The boys and I look for the cashews in the pantry, and we back away declaring, “Do we have anymore cashews?” My wife or one of the girls confidently strolls over to the pantry, peaks inside, moves one item, and says, “Look at that. It was behind something!”
The “Force-Not-Finesse” Rule
Another example is the “force-not-finesse” rule. My boys are struggling to put something back where it goes. It’s not fitting. The idea light comes on–I will push harder and force this thing in! The walls get dented, or the item gets damaged. On the other hand–my girls are putting something back where it goes. It’s not fitting. The idea light comes on–I will pull this back and shift another item around to easily slide this in! Everything fragile is still whole and resting now in peace.
Forcing stuff does not usually work. In some instances, it damages–in others, it destroys. The “force-not-finesse” rule isn’t just reckless when it come to stuff. It’s reckless for conversations and relationships, too. Not only can conversations be stifled; relationships can be suffocated at the least and traumatized in worst-case scenarios.
Flow, Don’t Force
With something as precious as the Scriptures we hold so dearly and its gospel message, surely we would not be reckless and force it into conversations and relationships, right? But, I have been guilty of this. You may be, too.
So, what do we do? How can the gospel story found in Scripture flow into conversations rather than be forced? Here are three suggestions:
1. Be vulnerable.
The best way for the Scripture to flow in our conversations and relationships is by sharing why we need Jesus and His teachings rather than telling someone else why they need it. You can get there. Remember–people only do what makes sense to them. If someone else does not hear you share how Scripture is affecting you, how will it make sense to them why it might have effect in their lives? Be vulnerable and willing to share why you need Jesus and how He has made all the difference in your life.
2. Listen for where Scripture is needed.
Too often, we try to force Scripture into conversation or relationships without ever really listening for how someone might need encouragement. Consider how Jesus encouraged the woman at the well, who seemed to feel so alone, that God had come near. Consider how Jesus caused the rich man, who felt like he was a pretty good guy, to question himself as to whether he loved his possessions more than his neighbor. Consider how Jesus comforted Peter with three reminders of the truth Peter could no longer deny, and thus, Jesus reminded him of the God-given identity and purpose that was graciously, undeservedly his. Scripture flowed in those conversations because Jesus loved those people enough to listen to them and know them.
“I am not Jesus,” you might assert. You’re right. You’re not. But, you can pray for wisdom and insight into the hearts, minds, and lives of the people you engage with, and Scripture promises God will give it (James 1). Scripture can flow as we listen to the Spirit’s promptings as well as listen for the real needs of others.
3. Share a story from Scripture that relates to how someone feels.
You may disagree, because you might say you aren’t a feelings person. But, please understand this about yourself and about other people–we all interpret truth through how we feel. We did it as newborns, toddlers, and children, and we haven’t stopped yet. Sure, we use our minds more and more as we grow older to provide a pathway for truth and emotion to collide, but our feelings still have impact on even what we think and conclude. I say all that to say this–don’t just try to force the answers of Scripture into conversations and relationships without listening for the questions people are actually asking.
The Sharing Space
As others trust you, even if they’ve just met you, as they sense you care, they will often welcome you into how they really feel. And if they do, don’t ignore it. The feelings they are sharing are very often a cry for help–not for us to fix it, but for us to come alongside and encourage. There is most likely a story from Scripture about a person or a situation that directly relates to how someone feels. Tell that story when someone tells you how they feel. Scripture will flow, and they just might discover how the Scriptures give them the gospel truth that can graciously collide with how they feel.
Bottom line, it’s possible not to force Scripture into conversations and relationships, but rather, to let it flow. Or, maybe we could say it’s possible for Scripture to “outflow” from the ways the gospel of Jesus has identified you, secured you, and given you purpose. Guys and gals, we can move beyond the “force-not-finesse” rule when it comes to Scripture flowing in our conversations and relationships.
If you’re a guy, however, there is no hope in moving beyond the “cannot-find-that” rule…not gonna happen.