My wife is an expert at opening people up. We should all take notes. Her most recent example came last night when we were out to dinner. It wasn’t exactly a Johnny’s Cafe-type diner, but Marti has a way of turning any place into the friendly atmosphere of a Johnny’s Cafe just by how she talks to people.
We had been to this restaurant a couple of months ago and got the same waitress and she remembered us, so that was a start. But I wish you could see Marti in action. Her years as a flight attendant I’m sure contributed to this skill, as she would take on everybody on the plane as a potential conversation and possible relationship. This particular server was outgoing with a delightful sense of humor, so Marti went right for her with questions like, “How come you have such a great sense of humor? Does that come from your family?” The woman immediately lit up and started talking to us about her parents, and especially her father, with whom she had shared many memorable trips to concerts or overnight events that you normally wouldn’t think a parent would be involved in. She spoke of these things glowingly and how proud she was of her Dad, who, whether he’d liked it or not didn’t matter; it was what his daughter wanted to do, and so he wanted to share that experience with her.
There was definitely something there for me in my relationship with Chandler. He may be 18, but he’s still at home, and we still can do things together that mean something to him, and make memories like this woman and her father. Suddenly, by just a few questions, an enthusiastic and genuine interest from my wife, and an open mind, we had a real give-and-take relationship going. We were able to affirm her personality and her family, and she gave me something without even knowing it.
The goal of every encounter at Johnny’s Cafe — indeed every encounter anywhere — is a relationship, and relationships come out of shared experiences. Two things Marti employed here in this example were 1) probing questions that insist on more than a yes or no answer, and 2) a genuine interest. The latter comes from listening carefully and formulating questions based on what you have already gathered from earlier answers.
Our place in the world as marketplace Christians is all about relationships. And relationships are not a means to an end. You don’t have a relationship so you can talk about Jesus; you talk about Jesus, if it’s appropriate, because you have a relationship. Out of meaningful relationships can come communication about spiritual things and an opportunity to share your faith with someone, but that part is up to the Lord. The relationship is what we’re after. God does the rest.