I have never been a big fan of small talk. I know lots of women who can just chit chat the day away about anything and everything, and never really go any deeper than a splash into the pool of spiritual things. This kind of talk is wearisome to me for several reasons. It can seem pointless as I think about my busy schedule and my full calendar. Sometimes, I just don’t have time to talk about wallpaper patterns or recipes. I also believe that it can lead to gossip as names and circumstances enter the conversation, especially where mothering is the topic. I really value visiting about the Lord and the ways He is working. My favorite conversations are the ones where we challenge each other to think biblically about our lives, and have the opportunity to encourage one another in the Lord. When I can, I avoid small talk.
But lately, I’m beginning to think there may be a place for it in our busy lives. I recently got a counseling application that was asking for me specifically. I was surprised at this person in particular, because I really didn’t think she knew me at all. Though we’d had a passing conversation or two in the hallway at church, there was nothing that would make me think she would prefer me to any other counselor. When she came in for her appointment, I asked her why she requested me specifically. She said, “Because you stopped in the hall at church and told me how pretty my little girl’s dress was.” Then I remembered that day. Our conversation had been about children’s clothes shopping and what the different stores offered. It had been small talk.
I had completely forgotten this conversation, but she obviously had not. This is what changed my mind about small talk. Your first contact with another individual will almost always involve small talk. This first conversation can be the beginning of gaining involvement in someone’s life. When you engage in small talk, you show that person that you are interested in their life. Taking the time to stop and have a conversation shows them that you value them as a sister in Christ. These are small steps toward a relationship—one that very well may lead to those deeper conversations that have eternal impact.
Maybe you are an introvert like me, and you just don’t want to put yourself out there. You’re not willing to be vulnerable in this way. Maybe you are of the mindset that you don’t have time for any more friends, so you keep your eyes on the horizon as you walk through the halls at church, and you breathe a sigh of relief when you make it to the car without being stopped. I have to admit, this has described me a time or two. I like to make productive use of my time, and chatting in the hallways does not usually seem to fit that goal.
But in the past year, two friends have died, one nearly died, and another has recently been diagnosed with cancer. As “I don’t have time for any more friends” echoes in my head, I think of these precious ladies and the empty spot they have left in our hearts. They were my friends. I guess I have a couple of openings now. That sounds sarcastic, but my point is this: We are not promised decades of friendship with those individuals with whom we choose to go beyond small talk. Any of our friends could be gone tomorrow. Who are we to limit how many people we allow into our hearts? Only God knows how he will use each one of them in our lives, and vice versa.
My plea to you today is short and sweet: Reconsider your interactions with others. Think from an eternal perspective about every social opportunity. You do not know how God will use those five minutes you sacrifice to chat about what Jane is making for dinner or Karen’s latest thrift store find. Though these conversations may seem shallow and meaningless, remember this: Your first step into the ocean is a poor indicator of its depth. Each person you chat with represents a heart that God loves and wants to draw more deeply to Himself. He may have decided to use you, and that may involve some splashing in the shallow water.
So, the next time you’re tempted to go out the back way, or pretend you don’t see all the people in front of you as you walk down the hall, think of your closest friend. Do you remember your first conversation with her? Probably not. It was likely some kind of small talk. Did you have time for another friend when you met her? Probably not, but the Lord knit your hearts together anyway. Remember, God is sovereign over our friendships. He gives and He takes away. A life full of friends and too busy for more may have new openings tomorrow. Treasure people. Don’t be afraid to talk small.