I’m going to speak very personally here, rather than try to lump you in with me. Busy signals drive me nuts. Ever hear of call waiting?! Even worse is that person living in the stone age that doesn’t have an answering machine. The phone just rings and rings. Aren’t they afraid they will miss a call? Don’t even get me started on automated message systems and phone trees at businesses. And what about those folks afraid to get email? We’re in the 21st century. Get connected, already! With all of our wireless, integrated, cellular, satelite, online, hi-def, digital, interactive telecommunications technology, how could anyone be unavailable whenever I need to get in touch with them?!?…
…Well, maybe it’s because they are more concerned with taking better care of themselves than in satisfying my urge for immediate attention. Maybe they are taking care of someone or something more important than my present demands. Maybe they aren’t doing anything…and that’s exactly what they need to be doing at the moment.
This perspective doesn’t fit too well with the pressures of fast-paced, online, virtually connected, busy, busy, busy, always available American life today. So many voices in our culture today tell us that to be unavailable is bad – it’s practically a sin. But to quote a line from the popular Christian music group, Casting Crowns, “The voice of Truth tells me a different story.” It’s hard to stand up to so many loud voices all chanting in unison, “Be available all the time.” Especially when it feels so good to get that cell phone call letting me know I am important enough to someone for them to track me down. And isn’t it nice to feel that Blackberry buzz and know that someone has sent me an email? Or how about that special feeling when I have to tell someone on the phone to hold while I check the call waiting – someone else needs me, too! It feels good to be needed. I feel important – like I matter.
And yet, I hear God’s gentle, strong, loving voice telling me…
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 I matter so much to God that He would make the ultimate sacrifice to make a way for me to be with Him forever! If that is true, I don’t need anyone else to make me important.
“For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” – Exodus 20:11 God, the Almighty Maker of heaven and earth, took a time-out after putting in a hard week’s work. If God needed to stop, rest, and relax for a day, how can I expect to keep going non-stop without stopping, unplugging, and being unavailable for demands on a regular basis?
“Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” – Luke 5:15-16 No one could possibly need me more than they need Jesus. And yet, even in the face of the desperate needs of crowds and crowds of people…he pulled away and made himself unavailable to everyone but His Father. God in the flesh had limits, and so do I. He took care of himself by being unavailable on a regular basis.
Well, I’m sure I’ll have more to say about this…but not now. I need to be unavailable to you right now. It’s Friday afternoon. My wife and son and I need to spend some time enjoying each other. Feel free to call – I’ll feel free to not answer the phone.
(By the way, I don’t actually own a Blackberry, and my wife and I have made a deliberate decision not to have call waiting. I grudgingly carry a cell phone, and struggle with managing it well. Even so, my aggravations noted in the first paragraph are all very true reflections of my impatience with others’ unavailability.)
Roger – temporarily unavailable
ps – Thanks to those who have set a good example to me of caring for themselves by letting me see them make themselves unavailable from time to time. I’m thinking particularly of the Parish family at the Parish Hermitage (www.parishhermitage.org), who consistently let the phone ring and turn down the answering machine during meal times. Thanks for your hospitality, great example, and fabulous banquet table!