Jeff does not ask me, "How are you today?"
He asks, "Who are you today?"
Not really. He can't actually ask that question because if I'm Crazy Becky, the question ignites an emotional flash fire. So he's learned to watch for signs.
If I snuggle in when he tries to hug me, then I'm Becky. But if I bat his hands away or cross my arms over my chest so all he meets are pointy elbows, then I'm Crazy Becky.
If I smile and say, "Good morning," then I'm Becky. But if I clench my jaw and refuse to meet his eyes, then I'm Crazy Becky.
If I wake him up by gently patting his shoulder and talking softly, then I'm Becky. But if I wake him up by jiggling his foot, announcing imperiously that it's time to get up, and stalking out of the room, then I'm Crazy Becky.
This morning, Bleary Jeff (he exists every day, mind you; I don't have to watch for any signs on that front) beheld me walking toward him and putting my arms around his neck. He paused, slightly edgy, waiting. Finally, he said, "I'm not going to be the one to say it, because I'm not sure if it's true yet..."
I smiled. "Good morning," I confirmed.
His shoulders relaxed visibly. "Okay," he sighed with relief, "Good morning." Then we headed for the coffee pot and chatted amiably. Like friends.
My culture asks, "How are you today?"
In college, the standard sidewalk greeting was, "How's it goin'?" As if there was enough time to answer the question while both parties continued to walk in opposite directions. After a couple of years, I quit answering. I just said, "Hi," in response. Good enough. Social requirement fulfilled. Check.
The same thing happens at church. The standard, expected hallway greeting is, "How are you doing?" At our church, the goal is to tell the truth and do life together. I love that goal. Nevertheless, it is extremely unlikely that I'm actually going to vomit emotionally all over someone in the church hallway. Or in the women's bathroom. Or during the greeting time. I just don't see that conversation going well.
Stage Person: Stand and greet your neighbor.
Neighbor: How are you?
Me: Crappy! How are you?
Stage Person: Time for the next song!
See? It doesn't work.
I know it's just cultural. I know asking how someone is doing just means, "Hi," and I know saying, "Great!" or "Fine!" or "Good!" in response just means, "I acknowledge that you made eye contact with me in a friendly manner." I get that being asked how I'm doing at an inopportune time by a virtual stranger is not the end of the world. I'm not going to rock the boat about it, even though I hate it with fervent passion, because guess who else goes around blithely at church asking virtual strangers how they're doing at inopportune times?
Yep. I totally do it too.
In fact, asking, "How are you today?" is so ingrained in me that I sometimes begin my prayer time that way.
"Hi, Abba. How are You today?"
I always laugh at myself when I find that I have asked God that. But I also like the answer.
Changeless (Mal 3:6a).
The same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8).
Gracious and compassionate (Ex 34:6, 2 Chron 3:9, Neh 9:17, Ps 86:15, Ps 103:8, Ps 111:4, Ps 145:8, Joel 2:13, Jonah 4:2). I know I didn't need to put all those references. I'm just saying that "gracious" and "compassionate" are two of God's defining characteristics.
Such great comfort!
No one on the sidewalk in college or in the hallway at church could say they are changeless, the same for all eternity, or consistently gracious and compassionate. And I certainly don't wake up any given morning exhibiting those attributes. Far from it. But it is because we humans are so everlastingly fickle that God's immutability is so everlastingly reassuring.
I'm not, like, actually crazy. On a 1-10 Crazy Scale, I'm only, like, a 3. When we call me Crazy Becky, we're just being satirical. But the personality shift is significant enough that it actually merits the question, "Who are you today?"
I cannot tell you how thankful I am that the same question need not be asked of my God.
"And behold, I am with you always" (Matthew 28:20b).