While in college, I would occasionally travel Friday nights to a town one and a half hours away for Coffee House. Although none of us actually drank coffee, Christian college kids gathered to sing, pray, study the Bible, witness, play ping-pong and fellowship.
The first time I went down, I fellowshipped with a cute blonde guy named Scott.
The second time I went down, I fellowshipped with a cute blonde guy named Scott.
The third time I went down, I fellowshipped with a cute blonde guy named Scott. Three times IS a charm. I was beginning to think some spiritual sparks were flying.
That's when he graciously challenged me. "Each time we talk, I always ask you questions. I ask about your school, your family, what you're reading in the Bible and what the Lord is teaching you. You never ask me any questions."
I was mortified. I was humiliated. I was embarrassed. I wanted to run all 81 miles back to my dorm room and stuff my head under my pillow.
I think I mumbled an apology, but then I was really too embarrassed to ask him any questions.
He quietly prompted me, "C'mon, ask me a question."
I don't remember any more of the conversation, I think the initial humiliation stopped my brain cells from working, but I do remember this - I knew I had finally met my spiritual match.
Scott didn't say anything to hurt me or harm me. He saw something he felt needed to be addressed in a gracious manner, and so he did. He knew that my spiritual life would be better if I would learn to draw people out and share the "mic" more in conversations.
When I thought about our conversation and prayed about it, I knew he was right.
Since then, he has taught me much about hearing the message people aren't really saying, watching body language, comforting, encouraging, exhorting and even rebuking. His goal in mastering interpersonal relationships is to bring the lost to Christ and encourage the Christians to have a closer walk with Him.
There's a two-fold purpose in asking questions.
First - to get to know people.
Asking questions when you meet someone for the first time gives you the opportunity to write their history in your mind and their personality and emotions in your heart.
When you already know them, questions are necessary to update on their lives and their needs. This statement IS a no-brainer, but many times I have walked away from a conversation thinking, "Oh, I should have asked about _________________!" Asking questions needs to be a state of mind and a practice so you don't have those forehead slapping moments of regret for a missed opportunity.
If they ask questions about my life, of course I still love to answer and can talk too much, but I try to ping-pong the conversation back to them when I have answered their question fully.
A lull in the conversation can be filled with a question that could continue the conversation for a longer time or steer it into another path.
Listening to the prompting of the Holy Spirit can lead the conversation into very fertile soil, where both are blessed and strengthened by the conversation, whether 5 minutes or an hour.
We're not just questioning our friend, but the Lord. "What would you like me to say? How can I bless this person today?"
I try to remember their answers, so I can follow up on our next visit.
Second - to know how to pray.
Sometimes people don't want to offer up their struggles, needs or trials in conversation, unless they're asked. It can be a beautiful part of healing, allowing someone to pour out their heart, so you can wash it in prayer.
It's also one of the reasons I am convinced we "run into people" because the Lord knew one of us needed encouragment, refreshing or prayer. We call these meetings "divine interventions."
There has been only one other time when he asked me a question and I didn't follow up with another question.
It was when he asked me to marry him.