I have the privilege next week of getting together with the Executive Committee of our national church body. We will have three days of face to face meetings. We do meet fairly regularly by video conference calls to do the work of our church, but my point here is that electronics is not the same as personal contact. We can make decision in a conference call, but we can’t really get to know one another, and build the kind of relationships that really strengthen us and the body we serve. This thought can be extended to all the personal electronics we use. They all have their place, and provide convenience and efficiency, but nothing replaces real human contact. We need to be careful in thinking that because we text a person 10 times in a day we really know them. Nothing replaces face to face conversation, and you sure can’t get a firm hand shake or a hug through a cell phone.
On one wall of my office I have four shelves of antique radio parts. There are capacitors, variable resistors, meters and a variety of other items. One variable capacitor is 12 inches in diameter and 8 inches deep. By today’s standards these 100 years old parts are gigantic. Everything today has been miniaturized. But one thing has remained constant, the laws of physics that govern the flow of electrons in devices we build. We’ve learned how to make things smaller and more efficient, but we can’t change the governing principles that make the devices work. Of course, this has its counterpart in life and society. Our God, the God who devised our being and brought us into life has established the laws by which we function best. We may manipulate all manner of things in society, but we can’t change the laws God has established for our best good. Perhaps we should look again at the Designer’s schematics.
I am writing this to the kids who read my paragraph. By kids I mean anyone 50 years younger than I am, which covers a fair span. Yesterday I quoted the commentator’s remark about people wanting “easily digestible sound bites that make them feel good”. I think that’s a terrible commentary on our times, and, at least in part, due to the proliferation of smartphones. I’m asking you to put down your smartphone and read a book. Sit down and have a real face to face conversation with someone. A text message may convey information, but it is not a conversation. It is not a relationship that is deepened by seeing a persons face, understanding their expressions through the tone in their voice, and feeling a real connection between two living beings. A Google search is handy, but it doesn’t replace a book as a means of connecting with the authors overall thesis. Electronics do not really help in learning to think, reason things out, and grow into maturity. God created us for far more than superficialities, and sound bite understanding. Ok, so I am old, but I’m also right in this. Put away your smartphone, and go have a real conversation with someone.
There is an article in the latest TIME magazine on the age of wearable technology, the internet on your wrist or in your glasses. The authors observe that “The reality of living with an iPhone, or any smart, connected mobile device, is that it makes reality feel just that little bit less real. One gets overconnected, to the point where one is apt to pay attention to the thoughts and opinions of distant anonymous strangers over those of loved ones who are in the same room. One forgets how to be alone and undistracted.” What ever happened to “Be still, and know that I am God;…”(Psalm 46:10) or “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength…”(Isaiah 30:15)? When our kids were growing up I didn’t even want them to have a Walkman, those small cassette tape players with head phone. I said that it shut them out from us, and what was happening around them. Now, I’m not anti-electronics. I’m obviously using it, but we must not lose the ability to be alone, to be quiet, to be at rest, to meditate, and to think. For if we do, we also lose our ability to draw near to our Lord and find our strength in Him.
Our microwave oven went up. Who knows why?!! It wasn’t all that old, but it just quit between heating my morning coffee and the leftovers for lunch. I even took the cover off and looked inside, which of course the manual tells you not to do, but I did it anyway. Nothing burned, nothing obvious. So there it sits. The problem is we are in a day of throw away appliances. It cost more to take it somewhere for repairs than it does for a new one. Now it is ready for the trash. Very fortunately, God did not make people that way. We break down all the time, in health, in doing what we are not supposed to do, in missing opportunities we should have met. In God’s healing, patience, forgiveness and love, He repairs us, and starts us over again. God does not choose to throw away anyone. In Him, new life is always available. And best of all, it is free.