2 Ways To Be More Interesting (& More Humble & Meek)

The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.

Proverbs 20:5

He was interesting because he was interested.

Elisabeth Elliot said that about her dad. This isn’t a Father’s Day post, but I offer this accolade to my own dad. He finds others interesting, and that makes him an interesting man. He knows about Israel and Switzerland and Johnny Cash and Donald Trump and baking whole grain bread and raising moms of teens. He’s interesting.

But I don’t think you can be interested in very many things unless you are humble.

Because you won’t listen if you’re a know-it-all, or if you’re too busy to care. You just won’t be interested. Which also means you won’t be very interesting and you probably won’t be very humble or meek.

Meekness means we are teachable and take correction, without sulking or lashing out. Humility means we have a modest view of ourselves that’s the opposite of pride.

Humility Takes A Real Interest

C. S. Lewis has a brilliant description of humility. It’s marked, he says, by a self-forgetfulness that draws others out.

Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call “humble” nowadays: be will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody.

Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

The humble one will not be thinking about himself at all. He’ll be interested in you. She’ll be asking you questions and listening to your answers.

Time with humble people refreshes our souls. These people spark joy.

Which reminds me of this other description. It impressed this sometime Chatty Cathy when I first read it decades ago.

His thoughts were slow, his words were few and never formed to glisten.

But he was a joy to all his friends, you should have heard him LISTEN!

Jesus Was Interested

This is not me.

Except for the slow thoughts sometimes. As for Lewis’s description, also not. Since I’m writing about humility, I am clearly not self-forgetful.

But this is who I want to be.

My best friends are this way. Like Jen, who asked, “How are things with ____?” Then, for thirty minutes, she sat and listened.

My aunts, Peggy and Mary, are like this too. They ask thoughtful question after thoughtful question, buckets going deep into my well. Then with nods and smiles, with sighs and frowns, they patiently draw the water up. They ask and ask and patiently wait around, to draw me out.

I think Jesus was this way.

Jesus Asked Lots Of Questions

I think Jesus found people interesting. We know he liked to hear their stories, and he asked questions. He shocked his disciples by his long conversation with woman at the well (John 4).

Scripture doesn’t explicitly say, “Jesus was a great listener,” but if you read between the lines, it’s there. I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t interrupt like I do, and that he did ask lots of questions—questions for which he already had the answers. Talk about the humility. Can you imagine patiently waiting around for answers you already know?

Yes. Jesus Christ asked questions. Here’s a a sample just found in the Gospel of Matthew.

  • Who of you by worrying can add a single moment to his life? (Matt 6:27)
  • Why are you terrified? (Matt 8:26)
  • Do you believe I can do this? (Matt 9:28)
  • Why did you doubt? (Matt 14:31)
  • Do you not yet understand? (Matt 16:9)
  • But who do you say that I am? (Matt 16:15)
  • What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life and what can one give in exchange for his life? (Matt 16:26)
  • What do you want me to do for you? (Matt 20:32)
  • Did you never read the scriptures? (Matt 21:42)
  • Why do you make trouble for the woman? (Matt 26:10)

Jesus asked questions and Jesus listened for answers. Humility is seen in the asking. Wisdom in gained in answering.

When we are quick to listen (James 1:19), we are like our Lord Jesus. We are interested and interesting. We are humble and meek.

Humble & Meek Like Jesus

Here’s what I mean about meek. Many of you know I’m in the last stages of writing my MEEK NOT WEAK book. One definition of meekness is simply submission to God’s Word, His will, and to His people.

Listening to topics we’re not naturally inclined towards is one small way to submit. Meekness is not weakness. Submitting my will to someone else’s wisdom—say by patiently listening to others’ opinions—is one of the strongest things some of us do.

Plus, as Matthew Henry observed, if we don’t draw others out, “We lose the benefit we might have by the conversation of wise men for want of the art of being inquisitive.”

But if we only listen when we have a natural interest in the subject, we’ll never be interesting. We’ll forfeit the wisdom of wise men. But more importantly, we won’t grow more humble or meek.

Because meek, humble people listen. They lower the bucket into the well with thoughtful questions and draw out deep wisdom out as they are quick to listen.

Finally, let’s answer to that question. How can we be more interesting?

You probably figured it out.

1. Ask good questions. Lower the bucket.

2. Listen to the answers. Lift the bucket.

Then reap the benefits. As you show interest, you’ll grow more interesting—and more humble and meek.

In others words, you’ll be more like Jesus.

Do you have a favorite “artful, inquisitive question” that helps draw others out?

😊 Feel free to drop it in a comment.

The Best Friendship In The World

Three friends together laughing
You can listen to a podcast of this post at Keep On with Abigail Wallace.

I am a mess of unfinished business. I feel pangs of “in process-ness” every single day. Not that I have attained or been made perfect, Paul said. But if there is anything true, lovely or admirable about me, odds are it was shaped by my friends.

The truth is, I wouldn’t be me without my friends.

God Grows Us Through Our Friends

But spiritually, as physically, we can’t usually see growth happen. Discouraged, we ask: God, how are you working in me?

If you’ve ever wondered about how exactly God does work in you, here’s a great answer.

…[It] is rather like the woman in the first war who said that if there were a bread shortage it would not bother her house because they always ate toast. If there is no bread there will be no toast. If there were no help from Christ, there would be no help from other human beings. He works on us in all sorts of ways […] But above all, He works on us through each other…

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Chapter 7

God works in us through our friends.

Our Friends, God’s Grace

God uses their hugs to love and heal us, their words to convict and encourage us. God transforms us through our friends. Christian friendships are a means of grace.

If the phrase “means of grace” is new to you, it refers to the ways in which the Holy Spirit works in our lives to make us more like Christ. We can think of them as “channels through which God’s love and power flow” to his people. Scripture, prayer, and the sacraments are means of grace.

But Christian friendship is too. Friends are a massive means of God’s grace to us—his transforming, often uncomfortable, grace.

Smoothing And Honing

A few months ago, a friend asked me if I saw any “blind spots” in her. That question is not for the faint of heart. But if she could do it, I could too. So I asked her the same. What she said is another post and I’m not suggesting that you ask.

But I do hope that you have friends close enough to smooth your rough spots and to hone your dull edges. Because we all have those.

Good friends shape us as iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17) and as sandpaper rubs wood (“walking with the wise,” Proverbs 13:20). The second process is more gradual and gentle. It throws fewer sparks.

But both are needful. The sanding that comes naturally from walking together is as necessary for our spiritual growth as trusted wounds from a friend (Proverbs 27:5-6).

What Friends Sharpen You?

Author and blogger Tim Challies couldn’t be more clear about why we need iron-sharpens-iron friends.

You need spiritual friendships for the sake of your soul; a sinful person who can hold tight to your depravity. You are a weak-eyed person who often cannot see yourself as you are; a selfish person who sometimes struggles to live for anyone or anything apart from yourself. And you need friends who will help you, serve you, strengthen you, equip you. You need friends to temper your weakness, to challenge your sinfulness, to comfort your sorrows, to speak truth into your tragedies.

Foster Your Friendships

I am a weak-eyed person who cannot see myself as I am. I need friends. You needs friends.

So who sharpens you? Who is sharpened by you?

What Friends Rub Off On You?

While iron sharpening iron implies a focus and directness that might hurt, sandpaper relationships need not rub us wrong. I think of these type of friendships as those that shape us in less direct, edge-of-blade sort of ways.

Our friends influence us—and not only the closest five—simply by allowing us close enough so that they can rub off on us.

Here’s a short list of some sandpapery friends. Not that they’ve never been iron-sharpening friends, but they come to mind now less for their words and more for their rub-off influence.

They are soft-spoken friends like Traci and Brooke who help me to speak more gently and huge-hearted friends like Julia and Chrissy who make me want to give. They are self-controlled friends like Hannah and Mary who help me skip second dessert and hospitable friends like Christin and Jen who make me open to host. Ginny and Donna’s prayers spur me to be faithful in prayer, Sarah and Sandra’s pure hearts show me dirt in mine, and Shari and Myrt’s art help me see beauty. Then there’s my good friend mom.

This list could go on and on. God must give me so many good friends because there are so many prickly sides of me.

We all have those sides. So what friends are rubbing off your rough sides and rubbing off of you?

The Best Friendship In The World

Michael Haykin’s Iron Sharpens Iron is a short book about great friendships. I haven’t read it yet, but I intend to. (Any friends out there who’d like to read it with me? 😄 ) My gratitude to Tim Challies for his book review.

This excerpt is from John Ryland’s sermon at the funeral of his friend Andrew Fuller. Their friendship, Ryland said, had

never met with one minute’s interruption by any one unkind word or thought, of which I have any knowledge. I never had a friend who was so willing to stand by me, even in such services as most others would wish to decline; yet I never had a friend who would more faithfully, freely, and affectionately give me warning or reproof, if ever it appeared necessary; or whom I could more readily and freely, and without the least apprehension of giving offence, tell of any fault which I imagined I could see in him. And this I think is the best friendship in the world. 

For no man is faultless; and true friendship will not be blind to the failings of those we love best; but will rather show itself in an anxious concern to prevent the least appearance of evil in them, or whatever might occasion their good intentions to be misrepresented. […]This most faithful and judicious friend is taken from me, and never will my loss be repaired upon earth!

I’ve been reflecting on that description all week.

It is exquisite because it tells how iron and sandpaper meld. Fuller was a friend who both stood by and warned. He faithfully and affectionately warned, Ryland said, and was so willing to stand by me.

And this I think is the best friendship in the world. 

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business.

Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

John 15:15

Count Each Others’ Blessings?

 
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Johnson Oatman, 1897
 

Is it ever right to count other’s blessings?

 
I could barely keep silent as Shelly bemoaned her stay-at-home mom status—short nights and short showers, cluttered closets and laundry without end, amen. 
 

Blessings flooded my mind—her blessings. I thought of her hard-working husband and his well-paying job. I thought of her retired parents the next block over and her three adorable kids and the chance to stay at home with them. Blessings she didn’t seem to see. But I didn’t mention these.

Should I have?

Should we ever count each other’s blessings? 

Don’t sing songs to heavy hearts.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your moths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

I absolutely don’t mean this: I don’t mean telling a friend who just lost her Mom, at least you’ve got your sister. Or reminding a friend who lost his job at least you own your house. 

Those are not what I mean. That is pouring vinegar on soda, stealing someone’s coat on a cold day. That is singing songs to a heavy heart (Proverbs 25:20). Counting blessings over fresh wounds is mean. That’s not what I’m asking.

Sometimes words won’t come. That’s a good thing, because then is time to weep with those who weep. 

Count each other’s blessings?

But is there ever a time when it’s okay to look a friend in the face and tell her how good to her God’s been—to her?  Is it ever right to remind disgruntled friends how kind God’s been to them?

Winston Churchill said, Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. 

Call it courage, or wisdom from on high, to know when hold ’em and when to play those blessings down; to know the word that will sustain the weary, or if the weary are blind.

The hymn says, Count your blessings. We get that. We’re called to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances. This is God’s revealed will for us. That we know for sure.

But what about counting for others?

Prime the thankful pump.

May the word of God dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom…with thankfulness to God. Colossians 3:16

We all can get blind to the familiar: blind to blessings, blind to God’s grace. So when is it good of a friend—even incumbent on a friend—to remind us of our blessings?

The Apostle Paul often helped the saints count blessings they might not have seen. He prayed the eyes of Ephesian hearts would be enlightened so they would know their great hope, God’s power and the riches of his grace. Paul reminded Colossians how they were dead in trespasses and now made alive. He reminded the Romans they’d been set free from sin.

These are spiritual blessings, and blessings indeed.

Bless the Lord for other’s blessings.

But Scripture describes counting others’ physical blessings, too. As when, in the dark days of the judges, the former widow Ruth bore a son.

Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter in law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” (Ruth 4:14-16)

The women called out Ruth’s blessings.

It’s a do-unto-others sort of thing.

Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Hebrews 3:13

Counting each other’s blessings can be a subset of Hebrews 3:13. Matthew Henry wrote on that verse,

 

We should be doing all the good we can to one another while we are together, which will be but a short and uncertain time. If Christians do not exhort one another daily, they will be in danger of being hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 

It’s a do-unto-others sort of thing. Because no one wants a hard heart.

 

Sanctification is a community project.

But sin is deceptive. Since grumbling is a sin (1 Corinthians 10:10), and since many of us find it easier to count problems and worries, it might be incumbent on friends to help us count our blessings. Because sanctification is a community project.

Timing and intent—I must be wary of my sinful, envious heart—are everything. Don’t sing songs to a freshly wounded heart. But if the Spirit leads, and you have a heart to help, count your sister’s blessings. Restore gently, testing your own heart for envy and pride. Then start counting. It might surprise her what the Lord has done.

As much as we might not want to hear it, ungrateful ,grumbly hearts might turn to hardened, sinful hearts. I know I don’t want a heart like that.

So, don’t hold back on me. If you catch me in a grumbly rut, start singing.

You have my permission: Please recount God’s blessings to me.

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. 
Psalm 9:1

 

Hygge, on Earth as in Heaven?

Hygge, fuzzy blanket, mug of tea, Bible open
Rather listen? Here’s the KeepOn Podcast of this post. Photo by Sixteen Miles Out on Unsplash

Here we are traveling and our home is a distant home in another world...
Though we meet with traveler's fare sometimes yet it should not be grievous to us....
Consider what your condition is, you are pilgrims and strangers, so do not think to satisfy yourselves here.  
—Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

What’s Not To Love About Hygge?

I’ve been wrestling this week. I mean really grappling, straining to pin two ideas down right. HYGGE (or “hue-guh“) is on one side of the ring. It’s the Danish word for comfy coziness, and the feeling of contentment and well-being (Anna Altman, The New Yorker) that mightcome as you savor that Gevalia Gold Roast with your Bible and journal open on a sunny Saturday morning.

On the other side of the ring of my mind is SELF-DENIAL. As in, go out in the dark 2 degree cold this morning because you’ve offered to do the carpool after work and it’ll be too late to get out then. As in, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

 Hygge is my good friend’s word of the year and was the subject of my workplace inservice last week.

What’s not to love about it? Shouldn’t Christians be all about hygge?

Is Hygge Living “As An Enemy of the Cross”?

But this morning I read this.

For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 

Paul, Philippians 3:18-19 (NIV)

Their God is their stomach? Their mind is set on earthly things? What? Is that hygge I hear?

Theologian D.A. Carson explains, “There’s no principle of self-denial. There’s no no sold-out principle to die daily for the sake of the gospel.”

Which isn’t to say hygge isn’t a lovely thing. Only to say that idols form when, in Tim Keller’s words, we turn a good thing into an ultimate thing. (These 4 questions can help identify our idols.)

Hygge may not be idol, but comfort, health or security might.

Hygge, on Earth as in Heaven?

Carson continues,

Far from being drawn to suffer for Christ’s sake, they are endlessly drawn to creature comforts. Their mind is on earthly things. It’s not as if they focus on immoral, wicked things. Rather all their values and cherished goals and wishes are tied to what belongs to this earth.

Christianity prepares people for heaven. It is not about getting it all now. Someone said, Christians are “later people.” The meek will inherit the earth. Those who mourn will be comforted. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled. These blessings will come later.

So does being a “later” person mean we have to hold out till heaven to enjoy hygge?

No. But whether or not we see ourselves as pilgrims on a journey and travelers passing through has everything to do with how we handle hygge. It determines whether we give thanks or grumble. Because pilgrims don’t grumble.

Here’s what I mean.

At Home Or On The Road?

When we are at home, we demand our just-right sleep number bed and just-right fluffy enough pillows. The thermostat is set so high and no higher and the food is just right. At home we can have it our way. 


But when we’re on the road as overnight guests, we make do. We put up with a too-flat pillow or a rock-hard bed, grateful for a place to stay. We’ll endure the stiff neck and sore back because we’ll be in our own bed next week. 


It’s the same with travel food. We don’t expect hygge on the road. We eat what’s put out for us—mushy French toast or weak French roast, runny eggs or rubbery yolks. It’s not how we fix them at home, but that’s okay. We’ll eat and drink what’s set before us because we are travelers, on our way. 

At home, we will feast.

Hygge In Another Man’s House?

This metaphor is not new. Four hundred years ago Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs wrote,

If a man travels, perhaps he does not meet with conveniences as he desires, yet this thought may moderate his spirit: I am a traveler and I must not be finding fault, I am in another man’s house, and it would be bad manners to find fault in someone else’s house, even though things are not as much to my liking as at home. So they are contented while away with the thought that it shall be different when they come home…Thus it should be with us in this world…here we are traveling, and our home is a distant home in another world.

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

Our earth is another man’s house, and there is Christ-like self-denial.

But There Is Also Honey-Almond Peach Tea

Hygge tonight is sitting with my smart-wooled feet up, a mug of hot, honey-almond peach tea between my knees, a short stack of books and journals beside me and a Dorothy Sayers mystery in my hands.

All the while a wood fire crackles in the stove as Wisconsin winds blow wild. Oh, and there’s some happy Irish folk behind me.

As hyggeligt as all that is here at “home,” I don’t think we will ever feel completely comfy and cozy in this life, if only because we know this life won’t last. The world is not our home. We are “pilgrims” (Hebrews 11:13), travelers en route to a better country. I know this is true.

And Pleasant Inns Along The Way

But I also know—I mean, “experience” know—that God is kind and good. He gives us countless pleasures in this life.  C. S. Lewis captured this idea.

The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure, and merriment He has scattered broadcast…It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world…: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with friends, a bathe or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.

The Problem of Pain

Hygge is a pleasant inn. Enjoy it.

Hygge is a pleasant inn. Enjoy it. Embrace your creatureliness, Joe Rigney wrote. Go embrace the fact that creation is a magic glass, the kind that allows you to see God more clearly the thicker it becomes. Embrace your body and your five senses and the wonders that they can perceive and receive in the world… 

Anchor yourself in a supreme and expanding love for God and go enjoy his gifts.

Share them. Create that place. Refresh some souls.

Enjoy God’s gifts and give him thanks.

Italian Hygge And Prison Fare

But you’re still wondering, who won that wrestling match—HYGGE or SELF-DENIAL?

Well, back to the Bible for that.

Paul wrote to the Philippians, that he knew how to deny himself and make do at the inn. But he also knew about hygge. He didn’t call it hygge. The Danes hadn’t coined it yet. Paul said, instead, that he knew, “how to abound.”

I think Paul enjoyed some Italian hygge, some fine wine and bruschetta.

I know Paul handled prison fare. He was in prison when he wrote his letter to the Philippians, about learning to be content in any and every circumstance.

Jesus knew both too. Foxes have holes and birds have nests, he said, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head (Matthew 8:20). He came to serve (Matthew 20:28) and to pour himself out (Philippians 2:7-8).

Still, I think Jesus relished Judean hygge. Picture him reclined at Matthew’s table and resting in Mary and Martha’s hospitality. He enjoyed good gifts enough that his enemies accused him of being a glutton and drunkard (Matthew 11:19).

On earth, Jesus knew the delights of his senses, even as he obeyed unto death. He knew hygge and self-denial. I think it’s safe to say his followers will too.

Back in the ring, that’s why hygge and self-denial tie.

Our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly wait for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Philippians 3:20