I recently watched a four and a half minute video where author and pastor John Ortberg remembers his friend, Dallas Willard. (I’ll embed the video at the bottom of this post). One quick segment shows John and Dallas on stage together having a conversation only a few months before Dallas Willard passed away.
John: “How do we help people – if somebody wants to think about how is my spiritual life going or how is my soul doing – how do we help people ask and answer that question?”
Dallas: “Well, very slowly. One at a time, we listen to them . . . I think the next thing is a question and not a statement: What’s bothering you? Start there.”
They talk some more and then John makes a joke.
John: “What’s bothering you? could be an interesting liturgical question – to start the church service asking, What’s bothering you? and the people could respond back, And also you.”
I laughed out loud when he said it and so did the audience. Then, as the clip ends, Dallas can be heard saying, “That would be absolutely revolutionary.”
I had to pause the video at that moment, three minutes and fifty-five seconds in, Dallas’ deep voice and thoughtful statement hanging there in the air over my desk, That would be absolutely revolutionary.
My head couldn’t nod big enough.
It’s true, my instinct is to not be bothered because it just doesn’t seem right. To ask myself or someone else what bothers could be seen as self-focused or as an opportunity to rant or complain.
But what if we looked deeper in? Instead of manufacturing peace by shooing away my frustration or smoothing out my ruffled feathers, I am learning the importance of getting quiet enough to honestly consider what bothers me – not just on the surface, but deep within my soul.
Sometimes what I learn is ugly or uncomfortable. But there are other times I discover right next to my frustration lives a drop of passion I didn’t realize was there and a spark of hope I didn’t realize I needed. This is actually how all of my books were born.
Admitting what bothers me exposes what I most deeply long for. When I know what I long for, I become more fully alive.
What if we began to ask ourselves on a regular basis, What’s bothering you? What if we asked this of one another?
Is there anything bothering you today that you’d be willing to share?