Friends were over last week and I stumbled out of bed and into the kitchen, talking. About ten minutes into the mostly one-way conversation I caught myself. “Meds. I haven’t taken my meds!” Thankfully, I was with friends. They love me in spite of what I say or my need for meds. Still, I was reminded how easily I can go about my day completely unprepared to be a member of the human race.

My job requires plenty of interaction with others. Often I need to have a difficult conversation, lead our staff team, participate in training or speak to an audience. The unpredictability of my schedule may mean I’m unable to prepare in advance. Rather than focusing on what to say, the following questions have been far more valuable for preparing my heart.

  1. Am I open to waiting on the Holy Spirit?

Do I believe that it is God and not me who will rescue others, our team, my project, and this relationship?

Am I willing to follow the pace of the Holy Spirit?

When I’m unable to be quieted, I often find myself attempting to fix or control. I talk too much and rely on my knowledge or skills.

  1. Am I open to repenting of my pride and unbelief?

Pride in thinking that I have the right answers and know what is best. Unbelief that God is working in and through others, the present moment, and me.

When I’m not open to repenting of my own sin, I see myself as better than or worse than others. I compare myself and one of us will not measure up to my self-imposed standards. I will be smug and condescending in my heart or suspect them of being that way towards me.

  1. Am I open to listening for God?

How has God been pursuing me? How might God be pursuing the person I’m meeting? Am I looking and listening for God to show up?

When I rush from one thing to the next, I feel the need to have the right answers, to impress and perform well. When I listen for God I more easily rest in giving who I am rather than my skill set or, God forbid, more words.

  1. Am I open to listening to others?

Do I see the other person as created in the image of God with value and beauty? Do I really want to know him/her?

When I’m unable to listen to others, I come across as uninterested or condescending. I’m unable to connect the threads and themes revealed in their stories.

What do we do if the answer to these questions is “no”?

I ask myself if I’m open to listening, repenting, and relying on the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it’s just a quick heart adjustment. Other times I realize I’m in no condition to meet with another human being. And yet…

Can God still work in spite of me, through me or completely without me? Absolutely! Because our reliance is on Jesus and his finished work on the cross on our behalf, we can boldly move forward!

The fine print:

I first heard similar questions from a talk given by Lourine Clark circa 2007. While I imagine these vary greatly from what was actually said, I’ve found the concept of asking questions incredibly helpful for preparing my heart to be with others.