“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23
During seminary, I was assigned to Student Ministry at a local congregation. The pastor and I did regular check-ins with ministry assignments and life. He would begin the session with, “Sheila, how are you?”
I would list off the ministry assignments that I was working on and share about classes. He would repeat, “Sheila, how are you?” I would reply by talking about my work schedule and travel assignments. He would take a deep breath and said, “Sheila, I want to know how you are, not what you are doing.” He never stopped asking the question until I answered it.
When I finally responded, I poured out how I felt. Sometimes overwhelmed or excited or tired. I always was able to exhale after I responded. This reminded me of why I admire and respect him so much to this day. The pastor taught me that he cared most about the status of my heart and spirit, rather than how many assignments I completed. After I told him about my heart, he replied, “OK, since you started out by telling me what you are doing, you’ve already answered my next question. Let’s go get some coffee now.”
Recently I attended a virtual seminar where the panelists shared that one of the most important questions we can ask each other is, “How is your heart?” This question isn’t always easy to answer; it’s more convenient to respond with what we are doing. But I love that one of speakers shared that we are human beings not human doings. She reminded us about the importance of having communities where you feel safe and brave enough to share your truth. As she shared, I am grateful for people like my Student Ministry mentor who kept asking me about the status of my heart until I answered.
When we take the time to pause and ask about someone’s heart, we see each other. The question guides us to a Sawubona moment. This is a Zulu greeting reflecting that when you look at a person they come into existence in your world, and yours in theirs. It means “I see you.” In seeing each other, we are connected; you are one. How is your heart?
In the midst of balancing life, family, relationships, friendship, work, school and whatever else you want to add to the list, I am thankful for those who make me pause.
Take time now to breathe and ask yourself, “How is my heart?” and keep asking until you answer. Take the time to ask the people that are close to you the same question and wait for them to answer. Once we share how we are, it outweighs what we do. After all, we are human beings not human doings.
Rev. Sheila P. Spencer
Rev. Sheila P. Spencer is an author, poet, teacher and preacher. You can contact her at CustomMadeInspiration@gmail.com and her website is www.sheilapspencer.com.