Questions to ask your family to deepen relationshipsWritten by Shannon Popkin
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My three-year-old recently entered a bathroom occupied by his grandmother. Respecting her privacy, he closed the door behind him and sat next to her on the tub’s edge. Leaning forward with his hands on his chubby knees, he gave her a big, cheeky grin and asked, "So, how’s it going for you today?"
You have to admire his ingenuity. He captured a moment with someone he dearly loves, complete with eye contact and a private setting! These connections can be hard to come by when the only minutes between scheduled events are taken up by daily chores. While his approach admittedly needed tweaking, something can be learned from a caring three-year-old and his questions.
God never intended my family to operate like a machine, chugging out daily quotas of laundry and meals. Rather, God designed us to care for each individual’s soul in a place called home, where we sit down with a smile and ask, "How’s it going for you today?"
But here’s the problem: If we simply wait for opportunities to have significant conversations, they will rarely happen. While barging into bathrooms may not be the best approach, we must be intentional if we are to connect with our loved ones. So how can we snatch up today’s evaporating moments and use them to nurture and relate?
Well-crafted questions are portals to others’ souls. We each have portions of our hearts that are clamped shut, but often they are spring-loaded and aching to be opened. Festering grudges, quiet dreams, painful struggles – each can be gently unlocked with a question.
As my questions invite my spouse and children to open up and share their hearts, I’m able to care for each with more insight.
When crafting questions for your family, consider the following:
Picture the possibilities
Don’t assume you completely understand your loved one. Imagine what she might be grappling with or dreaming of, and let these wonderings guide your questions.
- What is coming up that makes you nervous or worried?
- What were you picturing just now when you smiled?
- What friend do you find hardest to say no to?
- Which of your skills would you most like to expand or develop?
Take a wide-angle view
Ask questions that peer into the future – beyond this week or month. Request a summary or evaluation for large chunks of life. Such questions often unveil significant matters of the heart.
- What has happened recently that you will remember for years?
- Which of your accomplishments this year most (or least) glorified God?
- What’s the most affirming thing someone has said to you during the past month?
Don’t ask for greater vulnerability than you are willing to offer. Neutralize difficult questions by transparently sharing your own struggles first.
- I remember a classmate who really irritated me. Is there anyone you struggle to show love to?
Listen intently to the questions they ask. A small inquiry can represent a complicated web of thoughts. Jesus often revealed the hearts of those who questioned Him by asking follow-up questions.
- Is this something you’re worried might happen to you?
- What are you saying about God when you ask that?
By crafting questions that plunge beneath the logistics of life, we are selflessly looking not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others. As we create these portals to the soul, we gain opportunities to better understand and love the people closest to our hearts.
Shannon Popkin is married with three children.
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