It is my pleasure to introduce you to Dan! The details of this interaction with Dan have very little to do with the fact that he is my pastor. In fact, this story tells of an extraordinary encounter with a fellow human being who pushed beyond the status quo.
I arrived at church late that Sunday morning, so I quietly seated myself at the back of the sanctuary, baby on floor sleeping in her car seat. I brought change and uncertainty with me that day.
I had been home on maternity leave with our third child. In just a week, I was set to return to work in my part-time private practice as a speech-language pathologist. I was already clinging to these last days at home, kids at school and alone with my baby girl, free of constant distraction and stress that work brings. I had been in the bubble of maternity leave, but what revelations and changes were to come when I embarked on the new normal as a part-time working mama with three children?
I knew for a while I was going to stop nursing the baby that day. I knew the third time around it was going to be better to complete the weaning process before returning to work. Pumping in my car in random parking lots didn’t sound enticing nor feasible with my work schedule, and I was eager to lose those extra 15 pounds of baby weight and wear my normal clothes again. I know some may believe this to be selfish, but with all three of my babies I had a love-hate relationship with nursing and had to give myself permission to do what felt right for me as a mother. So that morning at 3:00 a.m. I nursed my baby for the last time, quietly, together.
A church on the hill was opening doors that day. Every week on the way to church we passed this new church. The kids admired the beautiful building on the hill, begging to visit so they could go to Sunday school with children they knew attended, but we passed, traveling minutes beyond to our church. The dilemma had nothing to do with the church on the hill, for we had many connections with people there. As adults, the dilemma was that we LOVED our church, had found our home there, and had no intentions of leaving. We were spiritually fed, loved our pastors and the worship team, and felt a just right level of connection there. On this weekend, my husband and I had spent a tremendous amount of time debating where to go to church, leaving me in tears because it was such a confusing and important decision. We wanted to do what was right and best for our family as a whole. Should we attend the other church, opening day for the new building and an opportunity to insert ourselves into this new place, or should we pass by yet another week to our church, knowing the kids would see the cars in the lot? Knowing there was no perfect answer, we decided to delay the decision and wait for more clear direction. I would go to church with baby, and my husband would stay home with the two older kids. This was a solution for the moment.
After the service, Dan approached me asking “How are you doing?” I smiled, answering vaguely like “Oh fine, it’s been a little crazy. Just getting adjusted to life with three.” All the while, knowing he had hundreds of other people to greet besides me, thinking he was possibly just being polite because he noticed I was alone this week.
Dan proceeded deeper into conversation stating he noticed I hadn’t been tweeting as much since the birth of the baby. A pastor of a church this big noticed my tweeting pattern had reduced with the birth of our baby? My only response was to trust, because I had been tweeting less. Dan introduced me to a couple who was going to have their baby baptized the same day we were having our daughter baptized. Again, a pastor of a church this big remembered the date we were going to have our baby baptized, scheduled months later?
Conversation subsided and Dan turned to me again, asking a second time “So, how have you been doing?” Taken aback by his second rendering of the question, I answered, this time giving him more. I was going to be returning to work in a week, what the plans were for child care, how it had certainly been an adjustment to three but that our baby had been such an enormous blessing to our family and that we just love her so much. Eventually, our conversation wrapped up and we parted ways.
I could have shared more about how I was really doing, the changes I was about to experience balancing work and motherhood all over again, the debates we were having about church. It wouldn’t have been practical considering this was passing conversation after church. To be honest though, I didn’t feel at all deprived because in my recollection, nobody had EVER asked me how I was doing twice in one conversation.
So many questions came to mind in light of my encounter with Dan…
What was it that made Dan ask me how I was doing not once, but TWICE?
Why is it that I assumed Dan needed to talk to other people more than me? Why did I not believe it was me he wanted to talk to that day?
Why has this culture reinforced “Hi, how are you?” “Fine, how are you?” so much that I assume people don’t want to hear my real answer to that question anymore?
When was the last time I slowed down, really asked someone “How are you doing?,” and was sincerely open to hear the answer?
When was the last time I responded genuinely to somebody that asked me “How are you doing?”
Thank you Dan for asking how I was doing in a way that made me feel you genuinely wanted to hear my answer. Because of your model, I now challenge myself to give a sincere answer when necessary, even if it means admitting “I’m not doing very well today” or “Actually, I’ve been feeling really overwhelmed lately,” opening space for more authentic dialogue, connection, and truth.
“No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” 1 Corinthians 10:24