Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Just below the surface

I was watching a father and son interact the other day.  It was like many fathers and many sons throughout history, I think.  The son did something to upset the father.  The father communicated his displeasure about the son's activities.  The son tried to convince the father that he had thought about what he was doing and made the choice for a reason, and that his opinion was just as valid as anyone else's.  That was the surface level of the conversation.

At an emotional level, though, there was a lot more going on.  The son started out with a pretty confident attitude.  He was comfortable with who he was an what he had decided.  As the conversation wore on, though, he couldn't escape his dad's displeasure.  And then he had to think about it, to let it sink in, to decide whether to let him affect him or not.

Watching them interact, it seemed like they had a pretty stable relationship.  I don't think they had damaged one another in the discussion.  But there was tons of potential for that to have happened.

We have a lot of experience reading below the surface in conversations.  Sure, there are some people who are better at it than others.  But in order to survive within relationships, most of us have picked up the skill of identifying the emotions and the non-verbal communication that happens.

Trying to discern emotional barriers to faith is not so different from this.  There's one level of conversation going on about all the reasons why faith is not possible.  But there's a whole other level of emotion and thought beneath the surface.  We've got to learn to use our relational skills that have already been developed to see what those things are.

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