by Joanie Butman
At a meeting this week we discussed the tyranny of technology and the current social pressure/expectation for immediate responses to emails and texts. I was surprised to learn how many felt such a strong pull into the manic pace of communication, and the judgment incurred if their responses weren’t timely – which in this day and age is measured in nanoseconds.
The conversation brought to mind an excellent sermon a friend shared called Stuck in a Bubble.* The bubbles to which the speaker refers are those animated dots that appear when you send a text and you’re waiting for a reply. Officially, they’re called ellipsis or texting awareness indicators. They signal that the other person is typing, or they mistakenly clicked in the reply box and never finished or deleted what they typed, in which case you're waiting in vain – a sort of text limbo. A previous bubble watcher, who recently discovered that seeing those bubbles doesn’t guarantee a reply, wrote: “This is interesting because I spend a lot of time looking at these dots and nothing happens. Now I can free up that time to maybe come up with a cure for cancer or some other global changing event.”
When I communicate with my son, I am often in the 'bubble zone' thinking he is typing a lengthy message. After what feels like an eternity (by his standards), I receive a succinct answer to most inquiries: yes, no, good – leaving me wondering why it took so long. However, when I don’t answer immediately, he will follow up with “Are you still there? What’s taking you so long?” I don’t know - fat fingers, small buttons, slow brain – all of the above.
This generation’s method of instant communication is so different from when I was growing up. I would never call my parents unless…
1. I was being forced to by the principal at school to report some transgression, or
2. It was an emergency (and emergencies back then did NOT involve asking what’s in the house to eat.)
Calling home wasn’t convenient. First of all, you had to find a pay phone and the correct change. Plus, our parents weren't available 24/ 7 -- nor did we expect them to be. This disconnect bred a certain resourcefulness because we had to ‘figure it out’ on our own without handheld devices providing solutions for almost any circumstance. Honestly, I relied a lot on my peers (and vice versa), which wasn’t necessarily the wise choice. It’s amazing any of us survived. Luckily, we weren’t all stupid at the same time.
Technology has certainly improved our lives in many ways, but it has also wreaked havoc on our ability to tune out and tune in. The inability to tune out ubiquitous social media chatter prevents us from being in the moment or carving out sacred space where we can tune in to the Divine. The fear of disconnecting becomes pervasive and tends to seep into our spiritual lives as quiet solitude becomes a rarity. We expect immediate answers from God, which is not typically how He works - at least not in my life! He's available 24/7 and I don’t need to find a pay phone or exact change, but that doesn’t mean He responds the way we want or when we desire. Yes, He wants the experience of prayer to be interactive but not in the same way the upcoming generation has come to demand. Communication with the Divine is both a privilege and a process that requires time and silence.
I don’t know about you, but much of my spiritual life is spent in the bubbles as I wait on the Lord. He’s done some of His best work there. Despite the fact that His answers often seem slow in coming, those with faith can trust that something is happening because of His promises regarding prayer.
Before they call I will answer;
while they are still speaking I will hear.
This is the confidence we have in approaching God:
that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
1 John 5:14
At all times, I’ve come to depend on other forms of bubbles that don’t promote anxiety or leave you in limbo. My spiritual bubbles are more in keeping with the sort that Glinda travels by in the Wizard of Oz or Get Smart’s cone of silence. They are bubbles of strength, peace, protection, comfort and rest, just to name a few. They are the result of choosing to create sacred space amidst chaos to experience God’s presence, listening for His still, small voice. It’s in these bubbles that I find my refuge where I can recharge by tuning into the only One I can’t afford to tune out.
How do you choose to recharge?
An excellent reminder for this week:
*STUCK IN A BUBBLE, Pastor Steven Furtick, Dec 13/14, 2014, elevationchurch.org