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Thursday, March 3, 2016

God Who Hears, God Who Answers

Psalm 86:5-7, "You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you.  Hear my prayer, Lord; listen to my cry for mercy.  When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me" (NIV).

I often think we have lost the art of listening, completely.  Sometimes I think it is simply because of the age in which we live, but the truth is, I'm not all that inspired by the many posts I have seen regarding the evil nature of technology and how we should put our phones down.  There, I've said it.  Everybody rage...

No, I have found the ability to connect via phone, text, email (yes, I still do that), social networking, etc. to be incredible.  These things do not make me less present to people, overall.  As a matter of fact, they make me much more present to many more people.  Does this mean I should text while eating dinner with my family?  Um... no.  That's just dumb.  But let's face it... technology enables me to stay connected with hundreds of people with whom I would otherwise have severed relationship.

Sometimes, though, it can be a little bit overwhelming...  And I don't think I'm alone in thinking this.  In fact, I know I'm not, because I have observed something that is somewhat disturbing, and it seems to be a fairly regular pattern.  I would like to postulate that everybody is talking, but very few people are listening.

I see this most prominently in any written communication that exceeds a sentence or two.  I can almost guarantee that if I send you a long message, something comparable to a letter (remember those), you will respond to the first phrase I write, maybe the second (if you are particularly astute), and possibly a closing remark.  If I legitimately want you to respond to everything I have to say, I will send a brief message... wait for a response... send another brief message... wait for another response... and so on.  This may produce better results, but will also only go on for so long.  By the time one of us sends an emoticon, the conversation is probably over.  If you send a thumbs up sticker, it will end sooner than that...

I'm not sure it's really any better with phone calls.  I have been known, myself, to have to ask people to repeat things, so in some ways I am better off with written communication, because at least I can re-read it.  And I do.  Oh my goodness, I save everything!  If you sent me a message four years ago, I can probably still pull it up at a moment's notice.  Don't worry (or do).  Paper trails are forever.

Synchronous video chatting has grown on me, because... seriously... who doesn't want to "Go to Meeting" in their sweatpants (you only have to be awesome from the waist up).  This allows for some degree of body language and facial expression, but something still gets lost in the translation, and to be honest, it is distracting (for me) to see an image of myself talking to someone else. 

So I guess what I really like best... still... is a face to face conversation... preferably over Chinese food.

And yet, I wouldn't trade all of the technology, because even if I don't get to see my 837 (who's counting) friends on a regular basis... or ever... at least I haven't lost track of them completely.  At least we still wish one another a happy birthday and comment on food posts...

Somehow, this post was about God...

Oh yes...  God who hears...  God who listens...  God who answers...

It must be incredibly overwhelming to be God.  I mean, the world population is approaching 7 1/2 billion people!  I have trouble keeping up with my 800!  But we keep calling to God, and it's not because we need a few more comments about our travel plans or music choices.  It's because God answers.  God is more like the friend who shares lunch with us than the one who has read our message (I can see it...  I know you've read it... my phone even says you were active three minutes ago...) but does not respond.  If God didn't respond, we would stop communicating... just like we do with everyone else.

Sometimes I wonder if this is, indeed, why many people have stopped crying out to God.  Perhaps they can no longer hear (see, feel, smell, taste) the response.  Look, I've been there, myself.  I have come to moments when my angry words have sounded much more like, "Hello!  Where are you?" than anything else.  Sometimes silence stinks! 

But we need to remember something else.  Sometimes silence is an answer.  And sometimes it is exactly the answer we need.

"People who love one another can be silent together." - Dallas Willard

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