There’s something I need to confess. Both personally, and professionally. It’s happened more than once. I’m not proud of it. In fact, one of the reasons I’m putting it into words is to remind myself and others that it’s happened. It may be happening even now. I’ll give you a quick story to illustrate:
Once a week, the pastors & staff of our church gather to pray for the needs of our church. These are “requests” submitted on the “Friendship Folders” found in every pew of our sanctuary. On Sunday morning, our members do much more than simply let us know they’re sitting in the pew that morning. Many of them take a moment to ask for specific prayers, and we respond by reading those, and praying. It’s a really neat thing to be a part of, and I’m usually in awe of the faithfulness of some prayers, and the candid “specificness” of others. This is usually the longest portion of our Wednesday staff meetings.
After this, we go through an “absentee” report. This report looks at the attendence records of all our regular attenders, and compiles a list of anyone who has missed 3 times in a row. That’s usually a sign that something might be happening, and we want to make sure we’re making contact with those we’ve not seen in a while. Not because “you gotta get in church!!!” But because we’re a family…and if someone in your family doesn’t show up for a meal-time on a regular basis, love compels you start to ask questions.
That’s when it usually happens. We’re all reading through the list of names together, and someone asks about a name aloud. “Does anyone know how ______ is doing?” More than once, I’ve responded in that moment. Not out of relationship. Not out of conversation that you and I had, during which you told me about something going on in your life. From where, then? Usually, something I saw posted on social media. It’s made me realize a truth I need to confess, not only to the attenders of our church, but my own friends and family:
I make claims to “How you are doing” based on information I picked up second-hand.
This is probably not all that big of a deal. Many of us actually post things online, so that people we’re connected to will know what’s happening in our lives. It’s kinda the point. The danger comes, when experiencing “relationship” by way of “information” becomes the default way we begin to relate to those we care about. Far too many people in our lives want to be truly “known”, and not simply “known about”. From the most important relationship I have with any human being, my wife…all the way out to someone on the edges of my relationships: we want to be known. (see Martin Buber’s “I and Thou” to realize this is not a new need)
It’s something many of us realized about God at some point. To know about Him is not the same thing as knowing Him. Yet here we are, many of us settling for that same level of relationship with those we care about. It’s understandable that it happens, really. With the amount of data that streams into our lives on a daily basis, we are sometimes doing well to even notice the relevant information on those we care about.
Now, I’m not about to “give up” the ability I have to “know about” what’s happening in the lives of so many people….by dumping social media altogether. But I do think it’s important to remember: information is not relation.
So that’s my challenge for myself: To have more one-on-one conversations. To call someone on the phone, and ask how they’re doing. To look at my spouse across the table, letting go of the “information” I have about what’s happening in her life and genuinely ask as if I don’t know how to answer, “How are you today?” To let go of the pictures I may have seen of my children posted/sent during the day, and curiously ask them with a smile on my face, “How was your day today??”
What does the challenge look like for you??