Sunday, November 16, 2014

Small things and great things

The cell phone sings out its tone, indicating a message has been left. Fingers quickly go to pushing the numbers and letters on the screen, communication activated. Minutes pass and no one realizes that all around the dinner table the scene from each seat is the same. A small screen held between two hands, a slight glow of blue light reflecting up to each face. After a little more lingering with occasional pauses to slip the fork again into the mouth, deeply engaged in private conversation, dinner is finished and the people turn their separate ways and return to their respective individual lives. Though, in fact, they never left their own insulated worlds to engage with anyone else, not even to break bread and give thanks.

Christmas shopping done with no lines, only a few clicks, and a charge through some unseen, yet not imagined network. No reason to brave the cold, plan with friends. I mean, the only friends one really needs can be found on Facebook. There one can live a life imagined. Whoever they desire to be can be the presentation they give. Wild and free, perpetually beautiful in 1000 “duckface” selfies, happy family, happy pets, mom of pets, mom of six, healthy, sexy, with someone who is sexy. In fact, why would one even need flesh and bone friends. Fewer “off screen” friends just limit the amount of shopping that must be done. And, anyways, they distract from the games on the computer. So little time. So many computer games. Interacting with society just limits the ability to fully connect with your Mac or PC.

And it is all so quick. So many things done with just a click. What did we ever do before we had devices like this. Cords. We did corded telephones. Cords were so binding. And before that it was the dark ages, and I wasn’t alive, so I don’t know what those poor souls did.

What is really amazing is how we get so much done, but still don’t have enough time. So many friends, but few real friends. So efficient, and yet still not completing life as we had hoped. How does that work? We don’t even have to wait for a pause for a breath between words like we did in the old days, we just read the rapid fire texts to keep up with friends. But there is something lost when you laugh alone at a friend’s post online, and can’t laugh together. There is something that feeds a friendship about a good snort, breathing warm life into the both of you. And you miss them when you close the door to part ways. All that is lost when all your friends are online, make believe friends. You never really miss them. They sometimes catch your thoughts, but rarely really steal your heart.

And then there are the families, texting one from upstairs to the one a level down. The kids see the list of things to do, but they don’t feel the love of the parent. There is communication, but it is unintentional – squished in between sports games, trips to the refrigerator, and a quick rush of gifts on Christmas morning. Not enough time or energy for discipline, at least not the consistent kind. But kids are resilient, they’ll probably grow up fine, right?

And the worst is that we think that because all of the rest of life is a fast food, right now mentality in which the only relationships which are often maintained are superficial, we believe that God will find that acceptable too. So, we say a quick prayer here and there, mostly in a genie like manner when we need a parking place, or when our team is down a few points. And then expect that such, combined with fulfilling the obligation of church (when we have time enough to fit it in) entitles us to good graces with the Father. We make God small, because we have only a few crevices left in life in which to fit Him into. And then we know Him shallowly, call on him superficially during times of need, and expect Him then to be a God who makes all our dreams come true. We have confused the short lived pleasures of visiting Disney, with the everlasting delight of living relationally connected with the Father.

But He has a bigger, more costly, more fulfilling agenda than we usually like to acknowledge. And He invites the weary, broken, tired, and scarred into it. He offers rest, but not a 10 minute cat nap. Rather a soul at rest in both hurricane force winds and sunny, pleasant days. He welcomes into relationship. But there is nothing superficial in this offer. It is a bit unfair, I will admit, for He enters the relationship with complete knowledge of our deepest parts and we begin with only glimpses of His character. Most interestingly, as we grow closer, we only see more and more how big He is, and though we know Him better and better, He only feels bigger and bigger, and we always smaller.  Though we try to hide our faults and failures, He knows them all. He is not interested in mere trivialities found in acquaintance-ship. He is always a strange mix of bruising and healing, ease and tension, work and rest, play and seriousness, comfort and a sandpaper rub. But never is He coldness, never careless, never unloving. And with Him, we are always part ourselves - plain, ordinary, sometimes dirty and much less than we would wish -  and part the best of who we could ever hope to be. In fact, He wants the best for us, and the best from us. He is strange that way, always wanting to better us, sharpen us, strengthen us. Indeed, one of His dear qualities is that He is not one to leave well enough alone. No, if He welcomes us, it will change us. Delightful, yet painful is His love. But I suppose all real love is. His relationship will test and try, as He has done from the very beginning. Not a kind of twisting such as a desire to break into pieces, but more of a process of refining, like obtaining pure metal by putting it through the terrible heat of fire.

I want to be better. To be known. To be accepted. To be made right. And yet, all this takes time, and process. It is not something rapid. But it is something that, in its finality, shapes well. It is enduring. The problem, though, is that He only offers it as a long walk, through all of life. Not only when we are aware of our need, but at all times. No, it doesn’t really work to order Him around as if in the drive thru on the way to work. In fact, He never has seemed the sort to take orders at all. But He has said that He hears the humble, and that if a man draws near, seeking beyond all else to know Him, then indeed he is welcome into relationship. He offers that man may engage Him in conversation. And yet, it isn’t the kind of conversation that we often desire. Answers are not immediate, nor always are they clear. Sometimes he answers with a story, or parable. And often we only see that He answered as we look back behind us. It seems once in a while that He wasn’t paying attention at all while we were talking to Him – but of course I guess He could say that sometimes it doesn’t appear that we were paying any attention to Him while He was talking to us either. And in truth, the latter has been indeed true many a time, though the aforementioned never once has been. And besides the guidance that we’ve specifically asked for, He has given us page after page of lessons, counsel, warnings, promises, direction, and command. But, turning page after page to see what His thoughts are takes…time.

So, too many of us don’t want what He offers, at least not on His terms. But, alas, the only way that relationship comes is on the eternally assigned conditions, set up by Him.  It isn’t a quick fix. No, that it isn’t. Not duct tape on the pipe. It is a real fix. In the long haul, it requires effort, and diligence, and persistence. But really all of relationship with Him is founded on faith. Believing the unseen. It can be so hard to believe what is not seen, so many desire no part of that. Unless they are out in the cold snow, heavily bundled in coat, hat, and gloves. Then, it is all too desirous to see the exhaled air lifted from their nose and mouth in a funny little white puff. Something unseen, yet quite obviously going in and out with every deep breath. But now away from silly things and back to the matter at hand. Faith. It is too much for so many.

And then there is time. It takes too much time to really seek Him. Many a night I would rather fall asleep under the covers than truly take the time to talk with Him seriously. And after a few weeks of relatively little deep conversation, I have wondered, “why does it feel a bit distant here recently?” And then I remember, that I pushed Him away a little as I put the phone on the bedside table (to be sure I was available if any important text came through) and pulled the covers up. At first He didn’t mind much cause He knew that I was oh so tired. But honestly many of those nights I was just too lazy. Too lazy to talk, too lazy to listen. He saw that I seemed to want some space, so He gave it to me. That is how we are, not willing to invest time. Pulled away by small connections, small warmth and small hopes of just a little rest. When He is offering us better connections, better warmth, and complete rest.

There are many things in life are so useful, and can be so distracting. In their own realms, it is difficult enough to maintain boundaries to keep the important things important. Family, and friends, and loves should be pursued, for they are worth it. How much more is our relationship with God worth? Whatever it is that holds us back from full devotion and pursuit are just small things through the view of an eternal lens. How greatly He has loved us. Endless writing couldn’t contain even the love shown in the life of Christ. And then, far less, yet still infinite are His provision, care, and love shown a thousand times over each day that we live. He is worthy of continually being our first affection, first desire, and first priority.

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