TITLE: I'm Fine Thank You
By Shawn Smith
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“I’m fine thank you.”
This over-used, superficial conversation tool has become a thorn in my side; especially on Sunday mornings within a body of believers, brothers and sisters, who are generally not “fine”. The question is asked not in search of a truthful answer but most often because we simply haven’t found anything else to say yet, it’s polite, it appears to carry some form of concern and it allows us to feel like we’ve taken an interest in one another’s lives. And the answer, while perhaps not a bold faced lie, usually doesn’t do justice to the real life situation of the person giving the response.
The Wikipedia definition of fine (as an adjective) is:
1. Of superior quality.
2. Of a particular grade of quality, usually between very good and very fine, and below mint.
3. (of weather) Sunny and not raining.
4. Being acceptable, adequate, passable, or satisfactory.
5. Good-looking, attractive.
6. Consisting of especially minute particulate; made up of particularly small pieces.
7. Particularly slender; especially thin, narrow, or of small girth.
8. Made of slender or thin filaments.
9. Being dismissive, a way to keep to yourself when asked, "How are you?" "Fine"
When my husband and I met, we had been attending different churches and made the decision to attend a 3rd church together after we married. I continued to attend our new church after we separated as well. I knew the faces of many of those who attended regularly, but chose to keep myself at a safe enough distance that no one would ask about my husband or my relationship with God. Every Sunday morning upon entering the church, someone standing at the door would hand me a bulletin and ask “How are you.” And of course, in a very polite, but dismissive tone I would respond, “I’m fine thank you.” My world had fallen apart and the God I so dearly loved and trusted seems to have abandoned me. For the first time in my life, I had absolutely no control over the chaos and confusion that surrounded me. And I was scared…terrified actually, that I would never recover. Nonetheless, “I’m fine thank you” was always my reply.
Until one night when I was shaken out of my foolish disobedience and brought to my knees before the Lord. I remember that night so vividly that it could have happened yesterday. I had come for Wednesday night service to our small hole in the wall brick building on the corner of Main and Madison. My children had stayed home; Wednesday’s had become my night out. As I had become accustomed to doing, I started sobbing just as soon as my car left the driveway and did not stop until I pulled alongside the curb in front of the coffee shop just a few doors down from the church. I took a deep breath, wiped the tears from my eyes, freshened my makeup and made my way down the sidewalk among a few kids who were out playing tag. As always, someone was waiting at the door to greet those coming in. I briefly glanced at this man preparing to return the standard reply to what I expected would be that same superficial question; but the question didn’t come. He was a very large man and would come across somewhat intimidating if it wasn’t for his gentle eyes and kind smile. He was holding open the door but as I began to pass through, he reached his arm across the entry and staring me dead in the eye, he said, “Ya’ know, I can always tell when an angel enters the room. There’s a glow about her that shows that she’s filled with the Spirit.”
I had no response but managed to soften my countenance enough to generate a slight smile. He gave me no opportunity to run from the conversation but continued to speak to me as if I were an old friend who was being filled in on some important event of the week. I don’t remember his words; I’m not certain I heard them at all. At one point he stopped mid-sentence and asked, “What’s your name”. My one word answer “Shawn” was enough….”Well, Shawn…” and he continued his monologue. And then it came. The question I had been hoping to avoid with my simple and shallow “I’m fine thank you” sentence.
“Is your husband with you tonight?”
He caught me off guard - I hadn’t rehearsed my answer for that! For the first time since he had opened the door for me, the man became silent as I scrambled for some sort of response that wouldn’t make me feel like a complete fool. There was nothing to say but the truth. “Actually, my husband and I are separated.” I tried to plaster on some form of grin hoping that he wouldn’t see my pain. His glowing smile disappeared and his face turned to genuine concern as he wrapped his arms around me and said, “Oh sister, I’m so sorry.” And then he did something that surprised me; I don’t know why it surprised me, but it did. He prayed. As he finished praying for me, he looked me in the eye and his were filled with tears.
And for the first time, I let people see my sorrow – I cried silently through the entire service. Later that night, when the service was over, my newfound friend gathered a group of women together to pray for me. No one judged me. No one judged my husband. They just prayed.
This night was many things for me – it changed my life and it began a lesson that has continued to develop and that I’m still trying to put into practice. “How are you?” is not enough. And the superficial “I’m fine thank you” means that we don’t trust that this body of believers God has bonded together will understand our situation and offer comfort and support.
In the early church (Acts 2), believers shared in all things; they broke bread together, they sold their belongings and gave to those who had need, they fellowshipped with each other and prayed with one another. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear ye one another's burdens*, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 37-40.
I am eternally grateful for the love that was shared with me that night and in the years to come. Over the next few months, I began to understand what “church family” meant; these brothers and sisters shared my burdens and my joys, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Time and time again, they prayed with me and for me and they persistently led me to the Lord, through His Word and by His grace.
But the subject of the marriage relationship continued to be as confusing as ever. I began to seek out others who had been in similar situations and who might help me understand what went wrong and what God would have me do from that point on. I soon discovered though, that the Christians were just as confused (and wrong) about marriage and separation and divorce as the unbelievers. In fact, there seemed to be more conflicting information about what’s right in the church than in the world. The world was generally in agreement that we should each look out for ourselves; in the church I could always find someone who would support whatever conclusion I happened to have come to at any given moment. I’ve come to realize that there is only one place for the truth – God’s Word. You’ll find in the following pages the things the Lord taught me about love, marriage, and relationships – more specifically, His love, covenant marriage and relationship with Him. It is my hope and prayer that through my journey, you would grow in the knowledge and grace of our Lord.
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what [is] the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us. Unto him [be] glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
Ephesians 3: 14-19 KJV
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