Monthly Archives: February 2012

Gogol, Vodka, and Questions That Don’t Need to Be Asked

So I’m in the middle of reading The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol, translated by the always wonderful husband and wife translation team Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. This being Russian literature (well, Gogol was Ukrainian, but I’m well-aware that only I care about that piece of information) it is… unique. I was reading the short story “Ivan Fyodorovich Shponka and His Aunt” (the phrase “brevity is the soul of wit” never made it to Russia) and a line caught my eye.

Ivan is having dinner at the house of his neighbor, Grigory. While they are talking, Grigory’s elderly mother comes into the room and is introduced to Ivan. She asks him if he has had any vodka to drink yet, which irritates her son. Grigory says:

“Who asks a guest whether he’s had a drink? Just keep offering, and whether [he’s] drunk or not is [his] business.”

Here is the strange connection I made in my brain: I rarely like being asked the question, “What is Jesus doing in your life?” It’s like asking me if I’ve had anything to drink yet. Maybe I have, maybe not. Maybe Jesus has done some great things in my life lately, maybe it’s been a dry spell. But let’s face it: it’s never ok to admit you’re in a dry spell. Why, Jesus is just sitting there waiting to throw open Heaven’s storehouses of blessings!

What I would much prefer is to be offered a drink; i.e. tell me what God is doing in your life and let me respond to that. If I have had some similar experiences, I will be prompted to share them as well. If I’ve been having a rough time, I’ll be encouraged by your words. No awkwardness, no guilt, no Jesus-jukes (well, maybe a couple of Jesus-jukes).

So instead of asking me what I’ve had to drink, just offer me a cup of what you’re having.

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