Seeking to Understand

(Today’s post is by UPPC minister of youth, Rob Clark!)

This Sunday we addressed the topic of “seeking to understand” in our befriend series at UPPC.  Our primary scripture came from Job 2:11-13, because it’s a picture of friendship that many of us desire.

We began by giving a brief theology of the church: the church is described in Scripture as a family with God as Father, and us as adopted siblings.  We used Ephesians 1:4-5 as a baseline: Ephesians 1:4-5 says, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.  In love, he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.”  This gave us the framework for the message.

As siblings, we are called to seek to understand one another—even those who are on the outside of our sphere of friendship.  We looked at the story of the bleeding woman from Mark 5:21-43 and noticed two things: 1. Jesus was in a hurry to heal Jairus’ daughter, but still took the time to stop and listen to the story of the bleeding woman.  2. Jesus gave her a new title—from unclean to “daughter”.  The title is significant because he identifies her as a fellow sibling whose story has value.

But the key is to notice how Jesus interacted with this woman’s story. He listened to her.  He didn’t constantly interrupt her story with his own experience and advice—although he was obviously qualified to give it.  He didn’t throw a bible verse at her in hopes that would alleviate her pain.  He listened.  Which is one of the main keys in seeking to understand. Listening is the first key to understanding.  The second is to ask good questions.  We identified three good questions to ask those that we desire deep friendships with:

  1. To take a note from Jesus, the question, “What do you want me to do for you?”
    1. In other words, dig into how you can be more supportive. What areas in our friends life where we can be a better friend?
  2. How are you doing, really? –look for specific things in the persons life to ask about.
  3. From Gotman—who you heard a lot about during the marriage series. He often encourages us to ask open-ended questions starting with, “how have you…”
    1. How have you changed in the last year?
    2. How have you changed since you’ve had a kid?
    3. How have you been supportive lately to your spouse?
    4. How have you been coping with your loss?


However, when it really comes down to it, asking good questions only works to deepen the relationships once we are in a place with our people that allows for us to ask these kinds of questions.  The reality is that good questions are just words.  If we want to have depth and intimacy in our relationships, we have to convince someone that we can hold their pain.  That we won’t just give an easy answer or throw a bible verse at them.

You can’t expect people to undress in front you unless you undress in front of them.  Once we are vulnerable with someone, it creates space for them to be vulnerable with us.  It comes down to having a hospitality of the heart—which essentially means we have a space where we create it to be welcoming and inviting for someone to share.  And this hospitality comes from doing our own work– to be on our face before the Lord recognizing our own brokenness and willing to be groomed by him.

If we want the kinds of friendships demonstrated in Job, we must first seek to understand ourselves, and then seek to understand the other by earning the right to ask good questions, by cultivating a safe place–being vulnerable with the ones that we want to be to be vulnerable with us.  But, to do that, it requires us to be able to connect with our own brokenness.  I love Henri Nouwen says when talking about hospitality in his book, Wounded Healer, “What does hospitality as a healing power require?  It requires first of all that hosts feel at home in their own house, and second that they create a free and fearless place for the unexpected visitor.”[1]


It starts with feeling at home in our own house.  Being connected to the brokenness within us.  And out of that, we can then connect with the brokenness of the other by creating a free and fearless place for them to enter in to.


Ultimately, this is what we need to do:

  1. Create a hospitality of the heart—a place that is safe for pain and brokenness to be held.
  2. Show that we are willing to go there ourselves.
  3. In that place, ask good questions. And as those questions are being answered, remember how Jesus interacted with the bleeding woman.  With posture of being quick to listen and slow to speak.


[1] P. 95-97


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