The structure part of the retreat finishes and we all prepare for bed. Kendra, my co-leader, plants herself on one side of the room, I on the other. We want to be available to any students who may want to talk more privately about the things we discussed during the weekend – things of faith, hope, fear, and freedom.

I watch Kendra from where I sit. She is in deep conversation with a student and I desperately want to join them, want to hear the things that bring this girl to such a broken place and hopefully, to healing.

Instead, I sit on my side of the room and am quickly surrounded by a group of about four girls. The conversation drifts from cats to allergies to dogs. Then back to cats.

Internally, I am exploding from boredom. Externally, I am listening, laughing, engaged.

This talk is not interesting. But these girls are sixteen. And in order to reach their hearts, sometimes we have to smile through the small talk, connect on insignificant issues, feel our way through the pleasantries.

I am emotionally allergic to small talk. Give me a girl who wants to talk the deep and I’ll stay up all night. Put me at dinner with a group of chit-chatters, and I’ll take my food to go, thank you.

But I don’t take my food to go because I like people. Also, I’m pretty good at the small talk. People have actually told me this. I roll my eyes at myself sometimes when I notice ways my outer life isn’t consistent with my inner life.

The Man and I read a book together this past winter – Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton – and while I read about her own career in speaking and writing as well as the exhaustion her soul felt in the midst, it resonated so deeply I had to put the book down and sob.

“Exhaustion sets in when we are too accessible too much of the time. A soul-numbing sadness comes when we realize that a certain quality of life and quality of presence is slipping away as a result of too much ‘convenience.’… I am noticing that the more I fill my life with the convenience of technology, the emptier I become in the places of my deepest longing.”

Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms

Sometimes the internet feels like one long session of small talk. It drains the ever-lovin life out of me.

Small talk isn’t necessarily wrong or bad, it just isn’t my favorite. And the feeling I get when the small talk outweighs the real talk is similar to the feeling I get when I haven’t had time to consider my intentions, my longings, and my desire.

Jesus consistently asked people in the Bible the same question: “What do you want me to do for you?” It wasn’t a trick question and it cut right through the small talk. He looked straight into their eyes and asked them clearly, what is your desire?

It is impossible to answer questions about desire when our souls shake at the edges from too much activity.

We must quiet the critical voice, search out the secret place, listen for the deep, mysterious longing.

Don’t be afraid of the answers. What God has placed within you, he wants to bring out of you. Not just for you, but for us, too.

Barton goes on to say: “I long for the beauty and substance of being in the presence of those I love, even though it is less convenient. I long for spacious, thoughtful conversation even though it is less efficient. I long to be connected with my authentic self, even though it means being inaccessible to others at times.”

And so I consider what it is I long for.

I have a deep desire to listen and understand what goes on behind the masks people put up. Even though I wrote a whole book about it, sometimes I’m still terrified to have people see what goes on behind mine. I long to embrace my own smallness, to quiet the competing voices in my head, and to enter into listening conversations with my husband, teenagers, my children, my Father.

We were made in the secret place and to the secret place we must return. To receive. To remember. To listen.

What are you longing for?

 

typed out in the quiet by Emily Freeman

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  1. 1

    Emily….what a beautiful post! I so need this reminder about taking time to truly listen to my heart’s true desires, the meaningful things in life, rather than be distracted by everything else! So many thoughts spring to mind as I read your post…but I think my deepest longing right now is to truly know and feel God’s provision and love for me and to feel understood and accepted by Him and to know how to serve Him better. Thank you so much for the reminder to focus on those things, the authentic things! And I just have to let you know that yesterday a copy of your book “Grace for the Good Girl” which I ordered just arrived, and I’ve been devouring it voraciously….such amazing truth in that book, so beautifully expressed! Wow! I’m not even halfway through yet, but I’m already amazingly grateful for it and in awe of how much I relate to it and desperately need to hear its message! I love your authenticity in it! I’m going to be sharing it with other women in my life. So thank you most especially for your wonderful book as well as your post! Blessings!

  2. 2

    Oh goodness yes, I can’t stand small talk. Yet I find my own way to put up masks to keep from being vulnerable.

  3. 3

    Emily, I started reading this before looking at the author’s name, and I knew it was you. I am similar b/c I don’t like small talk either, but can talk all day about the deep stuff, and my outer life seems to rarely match my inner life. I don’t know what that’s about. That’s why things like She Speaks are so difficult. :-)

    • 4

      Amen, sister. And that is a most lovely compliment to a writer – for the reader to know our voice before your see our name. Thank you for that, Brenda.

    • 5

      Me too! I started reading and then I was like scrolling to the bottom thinking, “I know this is Emily!”

      #LoveThat

      Emily, your “voice” ALWAYS challenges my soul….it inspires me to give that same gift to others. Thank you!

      As an extrovert, small talk comes a bit more fluidly but I do not prefer it and if I am in situations where there is too much of it or ONLY that, I can leave feeling unheard and unconnected to those I interacted with. I will do my best to propel a conversation forward to the HEART of the matter…or the people there.

  4. 6

    Realness. Vulnerability. Quiet.
    Those are my longings.

    (I have to say after reading at your place that I’m still hanging out in the backyard with Mr. July for one more glorious week.)

  5. 7

    You can probably guess by the title of my site that mine is a heart God placed a longing for quiet and still in – over a desire for active active going going all the time… but He called me to this in the midst of a time I was saying yes to everything and piling on the to do list, and He said, Come aside, You are not making enough time for Me. He drew me near into a relationship with Him that changed my life. I am much pickier and choosier now to what I say yes to.

    I think the important thing is to pay attention to what God is speaking into our life as He is the One that fearfully and wonderfully made us, each unique, and we need to tune into what that is for us.

  6. 8
    Leslie says:

    Longing to go deep, exploding from boredom, allergic to small talk…you are speaking my language. I used to think these traits were character defects because I’ve often been left feeling lonely. Like, if I were more tolerate of the superficial, I would have more “friends”. I just can’t do it. Reading GFTGG, following your blog, reading others’ comments makes see that it’s the Spirit at work in me to be the first to take off the mask. I’m learning more about how God made me and loving what I’m finding.

  7. 9

    Sometimes I feel guilty for not having the time to comment more, engage more, BE more with the online folks. But you exactly describe what it feels like to do that too much: it makes my soul shake at the edges. YES. And then I smile with relief because I’m really okay after all. :)

    Love, love, love this.

  8. 10

    Yes, yes. I’m not fond of small talk although I’m well-versed in it. I want to know what makes people tick, where they are spiritually, whether or not they deeply love God. I want to connect as fellow sojourners, not as strangers who pass in the daylight.

  9. 11
    Beth Williams says:

    Emily–Loved the book “Grace for the Good Girl”! You’re writing is excellent!!

    I can’t stand chit-chatty small talk. I want to know people–really know them. Finding out what makes them tick, hobbies, family life, problems, spiritual issues. The deep deep stuff of life.

    I desire for my hubby and I to be more Christ-centered and intentional with everything we do!

  10. 12

    Good lord, I woke up after an odd night of sleep, awake for most of it, thinking and thinking about pivotal moments in my life, decisions, seasons that changed me and I was sad. And it confused me. Because I have had some very blessed years… and I could hear that whisper, “What are you longing for, Danae?”
    As I checked my e-mails this morning, the title of today’s (in)courage e-mail hit me it the gut. As I read, your words struck deep chords in me, Emily. How timely and how deeply encouraging this is to read today.
    Thank you for all you have expressed and articulated and how you pointed us to Jesus. I needed this. I thank you with all my heart.
    Someone above said this so well already :) , and I agree, I despise the small talk, I’m horrifyingly good at starting it and keeping it going, and so often I do it because I too am terrified of really letting people see behind the mask. I ache inside when I realize I’ve missed opportunities to hear what’s really going on in another’s soul because I was so concerned they’d see what’s really going on in mine… I think on this a lot, pleading for God to help me grow in His grace!

  11. 13

    Gosh . ..I guess I’m seeing things a little differently – -I think the small talk is important – -because it is where people gain trust, especially teenagers. Doing small talk helps to build a foundation that allows one to test to see if the listener is someone that can be trusted. In the small talk times, I get to see peoples facial reactions when they are comfortable , and then I can read them better when something is going on. Small talk gives glimpses into the soul. I don’t want any relationship to stay at that level . ..however, for me, as I am getting to know someone it’s the little things I pick up on to help me determine if I am going to open up to them. If as I make “small talk” I notice someone doesn’t seem interested then I don’t want to take the relationship any further than just small talk. I think it takes a lot of trust and familiarity to allow anyone to take down there mask. And let’s face it – -masks come down one layer at a time as trust is built – - you know what I mean – -If I allowed this person to see this part of me, and they still like me, care about me . .then maybe I can share the next layer.
    Does that make sense ? it’s all about building the relationship . . . .and I guess, many of you are like me – -I want the deep relationships, the heart to heart talks – -but they happen on a one to one relationship . . .so, are most of you more comfortable with one -on-one time?

    • 14

      I agree with you, Susan, to a point. I did mention, especially with teenagers, the importance of small talk. It’s necessary. I think it’s a people skill, the small talk. I’ve learned it and it is useful – here I’m simply admitting how difficult it is for me to get through. That it’s hard for me when I engage in too much small talk and not enough soul talk.

      But it does take trust to build that deep connection, you’re so right about that. I suppose I was drawing a parallel between how my soul feels with too much small talk and how it feels when I ignore my deepest longings for too long. It’s a similar feeling, the two.

      • 15

        I do admit it gets tiring to spend a lot of time on the small talk – -because it usually is trivial . . .and you spend a lot of time with teenagers, who are experts about spending a lot of time talking about nothing. I think it’s hard to get them to move beyond the trivial – which is frustrating. I used to spend a lot of time teaching middleschoolers and I thought I would pull all my hair out! Because when I wanted to talk about what really matters – they were “bored”. It is a challenge to find ways to make life matter to them. to connect with them on the spiritual.

        Last night in our adult small group I said I was struggling with a couple of women who really weren’t convinced there was a hell. These were church women! after reading your post, I thought about it and not wanting to be too judgmental I realized they probably were women who engage in chit-chat. they are content coming to church on Sunday and doing their hour. and that breaks my heart . .so, I guess we need to think of ways to bring chit-chat into the serious soul talks. Emily, that may be what your next book should be on!

  12. 18

    I hear you, and it is tough when, as you mentioned, the small talk can be important for some in connecting. Though I do long for the place where we’re open enough to start with the deep and build from there. I suppose you just keep your eyes on loving the one you’re with (not yourself), and like you said, listen. Thanks for this, it was beautiful as always.

  13. 19

    While I was reading this post….I kept thinking about how God seems to stick me in the strangest groups (full of small talkin’). I’m deep. I enjoy the deep. I attract those who need the deep. But for some reason (maybe it’s God’s way of reigning me in and holding me to the fire) I have to walk through the small talk to get to the big stuff.

    I’ve worked with HS students for 23 years. I love how God (even though I’m getting older) keeps my heart young and my attitude fresh when ministering to their needs. The problems teens face are ever changing and sadly, only going to get worse. They need someone willing to step into the deep stuff and love them on through it.

    I’m thankful for the ones who ministered to me….so very long ago. I was a bus kid. Meaning, church bus. My parents didn’t take me to church. Who knew that I’d grow up and end up in ministry? God.

    We must be willing to minister to everyone God sends our way. Small talk or deep. Be ready!

  14. 20

    “I am emotionally allergic to small talk. Give me a girl who wants to talk the deep and I’ll stay up all night. Put me at dinner with a group of chit-chatters, and I’ll take my food to go, thank you.”

    That is me. Completely. Thanks for this post :) It was encouraging.

  15. 21

    I can relate to all of this Emily – but then I find it to be true whenever I read your heart. I am finding an old longing, one that I only give in to with limited passion, to simply pursue God. Finally, finally I think I am in the place where fear is pushed aside and I want all of Him no matter what it requires of me. I believe that only then, for me, will I see clearly enough to truly know the deepest desires of my heart – the me He so lovingly wants me to be.
    Thank you , again and again, for faithfully sharing your heart.

  16. 22

    Thank you for this Emily. This is an answered prayer for me. I have been struggling with not having “the quiet” during these summer months with my kids home (don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my kids, but 24/7 is a bit challenging sometimes, even with teenagers who amuse themselves…it’s the noise!). I was praying about my divided focus last night and asked for an answer. Your insight did the trick: “Jesus consistently asked people in the Bible the same question: “What do you want me to do for you?” It wasn’t a trick question and it cut right through the small talk. He looked straight into their eyes and asked them clearly, what is your desire?

    It is impossible to answer questions about desire when our souls shake at the edges from too much activity.”

    I felt I was being led in one direction and I was right. It is confirmed. Now I just need to get specific with my prayer…while I carve out time in the fleeting moments of quiet.

    Have a great one!

  17. 23

    Thank you for you right on words!
    “We were made in the secret place and to the secret place we must return. To receive. To remember. To listen.” ~ that’s what I long for —- not only for myself, but for all of my family.

  18. 24

    When I read the title of your blog, I immediately wondered if you had read Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton. As I scrolled down the page, I saw that you had read her book. Oh how my life so easily gets out of control! Somehow I think I can do it all. However at some point, it will fall apart, and I am left picking up the pieces. It is at those times that I will ask myself “what am I really longing for, what really matters in life?” And every time, I will start the same conversation with the Lord again. What I really want is to live every minute of every day with Him. I want to be so intent on listening to Him that I notice when he shows me someone who needs a hug, a smile, a moment to vent, or some need that I can supply. But if I allow my life to get out of control with so many things to do, how do I have time to listen? The Lord is leading me through the process of learning to establish a rhythm of life, as Ruth talks about in her book. One day, I hope that I will be able to say that for most of the moments of my life, I have been able to stay in rhythm, and that I have noticed when I could be Jesus’ hands and feet because it is only when I am living in and for Him that I am completely satisfied.

    From time to time, bloggers in our community here touch on spiritual formation, spiritual disciplines or rhythms. Do you think there might be enough people interested in say going through Ruth Barton’s book and or discussing how we are trying to develop life-giving rhythms and our struggles in every day culture?

    Thanks so much for your post, Emily. It was a blessing in my day.

    Cathy

    • 25

      I haven’t read the book – - it sounds like something I will be reading in the near future – thank you for sharing about it.

  19. 26
    Lexie Thomas says:

    I’ve only recently come across your blog Emily, but am reading it daily because it speaks so clearly to what God is teaching me in this season of life about trusting Him and leaping in faith. Thank you for writing honestly and vulnerably on here. Your words are a gift!

  20. 27

    Simply love it!

  21. 28
    Amanda Norwood says:

    I am longing to start my own business, actually to do what I believe that God has made me for. The fear is immense because I want this so much, and I know that educating and assisting people and businesses on energy efficiency, water conservation work are what God has for me to do. I am so afraid of failing because it is so important to me and lights me up. I can’t seem to make that final leap, which I know makes God shake his head.

    I long to let go of the fear.

  22. 29

    Longing for….
    … rest – real rest. Not just “I’m tired” rest but emotional rest where I’m not anxious about “next”

    … a hug

    … someone to want to know and pursue me and my heart – I say that with complete knowledge that Jesus does that non-stop. I’m just a girl who longs for the pursuit of a man.

    … heaven

  23. 30

    Allergic to chit-chat…LOL Here here! We just encountered the same lesson, where it’s necessary at times no matter how much we don’t like it. We had a very broken hurt person come over and we needed to just chit chat to establish some trust to his heart. As much as we wanted to just bust out THE WORD, and pour revelation over his life, we needed to start with chit-chat.

  24. 31

    ( We were made in the secret place and to the secret place we must return. To receive. To remember. To listen. )

    I love this sentence and have found it to be so true. It takes an on purpose getting away from everything sometimes to receive. After living overseas in remotes areas coming back to the states is so over whelming, the crowd everywhere. So many are into “surface” talk and that took me some time to get use to. As I sit every week with a group of women I did not know and really did not know them any better than when the study was over I made a decision. I ask God to show me one lady He wanted me to get to know. Someone who needed someone to listen to her deeply. It was not about me sharing with her my life but her sharing hers. Our Taco Bell meeting was so good…learned a ton that day as we sit outside and ate our tacos. Don’t get me wrong I can surface talk for a while but like you I want more. I believe that is how God is with us. We try to take only the surface things to Him…and He listen then He says, “come on my child, lets drop this chic chat, lets go deeper. He is patience, kind, longsuffereing, and the other attuibutes but always wants to get His message of love to us.

    Very good post. Thanks for allowing me to speak my thoughts. Blessings

  25. 32

    At the risk of hopping on the treadmill of internet small talk, I just have to say that I sure do need this post today. I had a mini breakdown yesterday as I made my own lists, surveyed our fall schedule, and realized I will need to clone myself. I’ve gone from having my kids all in one place {homeschooling until last January} to now having 3 kids in three different schools. For someone who desperately needs a bit of quiet in order to survive, and is allergic to running around and an on-the-go lifestyle, our fall schedule feels terrifying and suffocating. Often, my own needs and desires feel selfish. I struggle with the balance of personal desire {quiet, time to write, time to create} and “dying to self” {being the kind of wife, mom, and keeper of home that my family needs.} They can feel mutually exclusive. I don’t have it sorted out but thank you for shedding some light on the conversation that’s been going on in my head. : )

  26. 33

    “allergic to small talk…” That’s me! I can chat it up with the best of them, but often think, “Why?” Are we afraid of quiet? A friend one said she ran every word that came out of her mouth through this test, “Of what eternal consequence?” Wow! That will make for some quiet rooms, won’t it?

  27. 34

    Longing for….

    Like others have mentioned, freedom from nagging fear. Not the paralyzing kind, just the kind that whispers “you really shouldn’t pursue that dream, it wouldn’t work out anyway…” (and the fear to even admit that I am fearful!)

    A place of our own. To paint, to decorate, to arrange, to grow gardens around…

  28. 35

    “I roll my eyes at myself sometimes when I notice ways my outer life isn’t consistent with my inner life.” YES. So much yes.

    This book sounds like something I need to read. I’m going to look it up right now. Being too accessible, always in the middle of a small talk chat – it is exhausting. Thanks for sharing your heart with us, Emily – and prompting me to look at my own.

  29. 36

    So much of me wants to say this is my favorite thing you’ve written, ever. Yet, I can’t say that for sure…because, well, I’m not good at picking favorites. :) But, I do know this…what you said, it totally rocks my world! You put words to my heart and that’s such a gift to see sprawled out there–how you’re “allergic to small talk”, and how much that’s just so right on for me!

    I came to this article by way of your blog home, though I’d find you over here because I visit here often, or course. But, what you said there just totally makes what you said here so much more profound. There’s this huge part of me that welcomes in August with high demands of organization, to know what’s going to happen and when, and to rush the summer away…almost like small talk, dismissing its purpose. School and fall are knocking at the door and I’m too concerned about keeping them waiting that I can’t let myself just sit and enjoy this Now.

    Oh girl…your authentic self is just so beautiful. Radiant, actually. And you bring me closer to His feet, which is the most beautiful thing ever.

    Blessings, friend. A rich harvest of them.

  30. 37

    Emily! I feel like you jumped into my heart and wrote down everything that is hiding in there. I could have written this post myself!

    I am also a deep heart-to-heart kind of girl. And I’m just learning how to tap into the deepest desires of my own heart. It has been such a scary process, but now that I’m beginning to work towards fulfilling those desires, I’ve never felt more ALIVE! It’s totally worth the terrifying and painful process to search out my dreams and (even more difficult) ACT on them.

    I’m starting a missionary/ministry training school in a couple of weeks, and my soul and my spirit feel SO alive. I’m so thankful for the freedom to live my own life when I felt that I couldn’t for so long!

    thank you for this beautiful post :)

  31. 38

    Oh how my heart is still longing for a place of real rest. Twice through Grace for the Good Girl and the lessons still manage to elude me in practice. I get it, but I can’t seem to get it. As much as I want to live that God breathed life the living of life seems to get in the way. I hear my voice say yes even though my heart cries no, and as a result of doing that too much my attitude kinda stinks. As Paul said in Romans 7, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

  32. 39

    I resonate and hear you fully. Amen.

  33. 40

    great post. i love how articulated being “emotionally allergic to small talk”. me too, homegirl.

  34. 41

    When the cult I grew up in broke up my marriage and excommunicated me, I thought I wanted back in. They were my family (literally) and my life. They represented God, and I wanted Him. But one day in the market with my tiny daughter, it hit me like a gentle breeze from God. All I really wanted was my husband back. I didn’t want them. I didn’t want the ‘belief’ they espoused or the constant fear of God they preached. I wanted the simple, loving, daily things like talking to my husband, watching my daughter grow, and seeing the roses I planted grow into God’s big, beautifully blooming creations. I did and still do want to praise God for all His blessings; especially the one that got me out of those years of hell. But it’s the simple, quiet things that lead me to Him the most. The early morning contemplation of His Word, the liquid brown eyes and soft fur of my very happy, goofy dog who was made to love me unquestioningly, the pinprick stars at night. A lot of things compete for our attention. The simple, quiet things deserve it the most.

  35. 42

    Beautifully written! I can so relate with this. Thank you for posting it. :-)

  36. 43
    Mary Ellen says:

    Amen, Amen, Amen. You have hit every button in my soul. Small talk — I shut down completely. Opportunities to share the nitty gritty of trying to live a godly life and listening to the hearts of others share their struggles with their walk–Yes–we can visit all night.
    Time with Him is what I live for–there isn’t another to compare.

  37. 44

    This is a question I’ve been wrestling with ever since I picked up Batterson’s book The Cirlce Maker. (I was prompted to take it on vacation after you posted a quote one day on your post.) What do you want me to do for you? I’ve been more specific in my prayers and He’s been answering them in miraculous and astounding ways. I actually dedicated the whole week to writing about it last week. It’s still echoing. Love this, I hate small talk too.

  38. 45

    I long for the waiting to be over. I’m so tired of the world situation getting worse and worse and wondering when Christ is coming to get me out. I have chronic illness that wears me out but I have to struggle to keep going. I’m tired of one crisis after another when I just want peace. No more sickness, no more pain, no more stress, no more depression because of it all. I’m even tired of people because they don’t have a clue so I have to smile. I’m sorry to be such a downer but you asked. My mantra is Come Quickly Lord Jesus!

  39. 46

    I am longing – deeply achingly longing for depth to return to my life. I feel like I have no purpose, that I am only going through the motions. I have made myself too available to everyone else, and somehow in the process have lost who I am. I do not even know my own interests, dreams or desires anymore. And this feels so wrong, because this seems like it should be one of the best times of my life… I am 31, have a good job, am dating a Godly man who wants to marry me, but I don’t even know what I want in life! (Including if I want to marry him or not). My soul is so weary that I am close to tears far too often. I know God has a purpose and works through everything… but I don’t see or understand it, and my soul is so so weary.

  40. 47

    I long for hope, for a sense of vision and purpose, to live in beauty and simplicity and significance…and to find the way back to my Father’s heart…

  41. 48

    Longing for.
    Hmm.
    First I’d better find some quiet and think about that.

    You’ve seen on Pinterest the slogan that says something about, “If don’t listen to the little things…our kids will never share the big things…because to them – they were all big things!”

    My step-son can talk about Pokemon for hours. How do I know this? Experience, friend, experience. I hold on for as long as I can then I start grasping the high points and terms of art. “Which Legendary does THAT one have?” I say as if I know what a Legendary is. (Though I give myself points for 1) knowing the word 2) knowing that each game apparently has a different one.

    I want to be approachable.
    And, because I care. Not about Pokemon, but that he is passionate.
    Someday, he’ll want to talk about what God is stirring in His heart.
    One day, hopefully, he’ll be as passionate about his purpose.
    And, i can’t wait to hear all about it!

    Now, I’m going to go ponder…longing.
    You ask the good questions, Emily.

  42. 49

    Emotionally allergic to smalltalk. You have pinpointed me! I love your thoughts on this. I so quickly write off people in my life who are not willing to go deep. But for some it takes longer to open up. Thank you for this perspective.

  43. 50

    I long to belong, to not feel out of place. I can honestly say that I have never in my life felt that I completely belonged and it is a silent killer. I also long to be loved. I know in my Mind that Jesus loves me, I am working in my heart to feel it.

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