Does this shirt look ok?”
“Oh… That looks just fine.”
And with those words I’m set ablaze with ten simultaneous interpretations of my friend’s short response. “When she tells me the shirt looks ok, is she just trying to appease me? Does she hate this shirt? Does she really like it? What’s with the pause after she started to speak? Maybe this shirt looks terrible on me, but she doesn’t care.”
I am almost incapable of simply taking her at her word.
If you think about the way we communicate with others, you have to admit many times there is a hidden agenda behind words. It’s not always intentional. It’s confusing. It’s disconcerting. I do it all the time. And so do you.
I’m not talking about white lies, and certainly not about calculated deceit. I think that is in a totally different category. What I mean is the unspoken message that we subtly, even subconsciously, apply to most of our verbal interactions. It can be a tone of voice, a word, a look, a lack of word or look. This personal influence is almost inevitable. It’s part of being human. The problem is, we are selfish, and often it’s very difficult to place others before ourselves. Making our unspoken messages self-serving.
Actually, compared to other cultures, our culture really is quite direct in our communication. I state this confidently after spending a semester of college in Thailand where communication is culturally cloaked with indirectness. However, in our directness, there is often that strange double meaning or hidden meaning to our statements. Hence, I’ve acquired a habit of listening between the lines.
And I put my own agenda between the lines, too. Sometimes when people ask me a question, I answer in a way that will serve me well. If my friends and I are talking about what restaurant to go to for the evening, I list off several of MY favorites. If my family is discussing what to do together after a holiday meal, I will steer the ideas in a way that suits MY energy level. I’ll confess, with shame, that I am often looking out for my own needs and desires as I flavor the words I speak.
I know I’m not the only person who isn’t completely altruistic in speech. And after being burned plenty of times by hidden agendas, I now listen with caution. I struggle to take people at their word.
I, in turn, struggle to take God at His word.
I struggle, because I am so used to guarding against the personal agendas of others -and I have applied this selfish tactic to the most altruistic being of all. God! Who allowed His own flesh and blood to die miserably because we needed Him to. I believe He has proven Himself to be thinking of us, in the purest of ways.
What sparked this realization was a song. An oldie, but a goodie. It sings, “Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take Him at His word…” I long to take Him at His word. To read His instructions and love to us without hesitation, knowing that He unerringly cares for my well-being and His agenda is His hope that I willingly love Him in return.
As a young gal in this great big world, I’ve recently begun the adventure of surrendering my plans to Another. Which calls for some waiting, lots of praying, reading and a heaping helping of trust. But how can we trust without an assurance that what is spoken to us is true, perfect, and untainted by egotistical pride?
The good news is that we can. We can trust that God is good. Why? Because God says this is true, because of the lengths He has taken to be in relationship with us, and because He has made it so clear that He loves us with such unfathomable purity.
The ball is in our court. Can we take Him at His word?
- ‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus (mysunshinemeadows.wordpress.com)