Thursday, July 23, 2009

How to compare texting etc with the Bible

I try to think of interesting but most of all helpful topics to discuss with you. I think of these blog postings as discussions, even though you cannot reply directly. I imagine being in conversation with all of you, and I try to think of what questions you might ask and I try to anticipate what you might not understand. Because the need is so urgent and things are such a mess, I felt that it was important to blog something else tonight, so I just thought of this topic.

I was reading some analysis of why some people, particularly the young but by no means confined to them, since they picked it all up from their elders, are so hooked, really addicted, to being in constant communications with friends and strangers through texting. In this article the author pointed out that people will ignore the real live friend they are with in order to constantly check for new emails and texts, even though ninety percent of it is spam or other non-human bonding type of comms like news alerts. Texting is just the latest generation of this growing addiction, since it follows, going back in time, web surfing addiction, email addiction, cell phone calling addiction, back to the very beginning when some people compulsively checked their old fashioned telephone answering machines LOL. The scale and amount of addition to texting and cell phone chatting though, today, is enormous, compared to what was before. So something very different is really taking place and it is distressing and dangerous. I don't mean just the problem of driving an automobile and texting, though that is an obvious severe problem. I mean the spiritual implication of what is going on with true texting and cell phone addicts. So I thought of a way to compare texting (and when I type texting, you can automatically realize I mean both texting and talking constantly on the cell phone) and the Bible! (Or the Qur'an).

I think we would all agree that the reason most of you who are texting/phone addicts is, at the root of it, insecurity and the undercurrent of loneliness. I mean, after all, it is called staying "connected" for a reason. Having lots of people texting you gives you the feeling of being "not lonely." My first observation is that it seems like many people don't value their "alone time" or one friend time as much as it used to be. Here's what I mean. When you have strict (in the good way) parents, and perhaps a number of brothers or sisters, you actually somewhat value and cherish your "alone time" or your "hanging with your best friend" time. It used to be that when you got to break away from the parents and the siblings and go to the mall with your friend, being on the phone was the LAST thing you would have wanted. You'd be thrilled to get a few hours away from the 'ball and chain' of close family living. That's how it used to be in the vast majority of homes. So you went to the mall really to talk with the person you were with, or to be alone and browse the stores without the parents dragging you around to what they want to do, etc. You really loved your alone or one or two best friend time.

Since you were kind of on the clock (expected home) you actually treasured the time and tried to pack in all you could do, both shopping and gabbing and hanging out. Young people of several decades ago would totally not understand why modern young people would want to waste being on the cell phone when you are having your "own" time. So what has changed? I guess not having a two parent family, having broken families, one or both parents work so you have plenty of "alone" time (too much, really), so you really don't value what the older generation of young people felt was a treasure, which was their "on their own time." Which is better? Well, of course I feel that the majority of your time as a kid living at home should be enjoying being with your family, and your friends/shopping/hanging out time is a real treat used and appreciated for just that! I think it is a real bummer that so many young people grew up in homes where you didn't have strict (in the good way) parents, where you were eager to follow mom or dad around and learn about life from them, where you had brothers and sisters who were also traditional and so you had (even if you didn't appreciate it then) the safety net of a large family, etc.

See, when you grow up in what used to be such a "normal" family, instead of the "new normal" of today, you had fullness rather than emptiness. You often had too much fullness, LOL. You had a big demanding family with its structure, and then you had your school, sports, other activities, brothers and sisters AND all the stuff you wanted to do... and then your "alone" time was also full, not empty. Your alone time was when you got to do the stuff you could not do otherwise. Your alone time was when you could go shopping in the mall and buy the clothes that your mom would never have paused to let you look at when you were shopping with her LOL.

But for the past two generations young people have had access to transportation other than their parents, tons of free time, and parents, feeling all "modernized" about it, let their little darlings make their own choices about clothes and so forth. That's cool and I'm not being old fashioned. I'm just explaining to you that alone time in the "old days" used to be a great wonderful opportunity to do what you want, cramming it in while you can, while today alone time seems to be for many young people an uncomfortable potentially lonely vacuum and abyss.

Hence it is not surprising to see young people get their time in the mall, or whatever, and compulsively chat or constantly check for something else to do, since you are filling in time, not grabbing time where at last you can do what you otherwise can't because you are working in the family or school unit of time. A kid from a big family in the old days would be annoyed if he or she got weird messages from people all the time when they only had one hour or two away from the family to be with their best friend, or shop, etc. Today it seems many young people have so much control over their time that they don't value, and even fear, their alone or best friend time. Hence you see best friends sitting together at a fast food place, not talking to each other, but texting and yapping with other people on their cell phones!

Now, let's look at the spiritual side of loneliness. What did people used to do when they had huge drudge work and responsibilities in large hungry poor families day in and day out? Were they ever lonely? Sure, people were lonely, especially if they had lost a member of their family in war or famine, to disease or poverty, but more than lonely they were desperate. As you know from my previous blogs in Biblical times if a widow lost also her only son she might well starve to death, as the husband, and then the son, were the only providers. So people weren't really lonely as much as they are today because 1) they were part of huge close living families and 2) if they were alone they were more concerned with sheer survival rather than missing the company per se of other people.

But there is also another component to the difference between older times and now. People were raised from the smallest children to know about God and to believe in his constant presence. It is unthinkable to me how many children are raised to be irreligious, to know nothing of God at all. I've blogged about this before, how it deprives children of love and comfort to not raise them to know and trust in God at the earliest age. But here's the main point I want to make in this blog. When one is raised as a child to know God, it is like you receive constant text messages from him!

Now, realize I don't mean "channeling" or that God is your shopping buddy, LOL, where you imagine he is commenting on your purchases. What I mean is that people who are raised as children to know about God don't really feel as alone and alienated as others do. The way people learn about God, through scriptures, either listened to (back when people couldn't read or afford a family Bible) or read, gave them a constant sense of companionship. To use a computer analogy, being raised with God is like having God as the wallpaper on your computer of life. LOL, I know that's a little silly, but here's what I mean.

Most people don't, of course, memorize entire parts of the Bible. They know the basic message of salvation, the do's and the don'ts, and also the events of the life of Jesus. But each person tends to carry with them, from childhood, certain parts of scripture that resonates with them. If you get two friends talking who were raised this way, for instance, even if they are discussing shopping or other events, if the conversation turns to modern events or so forth, often each person will reference automatically some part of the scripture that resonates personally. Those parts of the Bible, whether they are actually quotes or just favorite events or principles, are, for such people, like saved text messages.

Think of those few text messages (out of hundreds or thousands that are just fleeting or plain old junk) that you really treasure, and how you save them, and they make you feel good to look at them. They are not, of course, substitute for actively texting a friend. Because, however, you have saved those texts, you can revisit them and feel good, but there is an element of pathos, for if you were busy with a fulfilling conversation at the moment, you'd not be looking back on past saved texts, no matter how happy they were, since you'd be in a current event of new happiness, or at least being busy. The Bible and one's relationship with God, though, is like the best of saved texts that you can receive completely new and in the moment. In other words, each time that you "retrieve" a "saved text" from God, you ARE receiving that affirmation in the here and now, just as if you had only now received that "text" for the first time.

Let us look at an example. Suppose you have a boyfriend or girlfriend, and he or she sent you a really awesome text that you saved. If you are apart from them, you can look at the text, and enjoy seeing it, even if you are a bit sad at being apart. Even then, though, you are looking back at a point in time. But what if you have broken up? It would really be kind of painful, not comforting, to look back on that text, which once made you so happy, but now represents a gone relationship. You could look at it for nostalgia, but it probably is no comfort. So even at its best, when its an awesome text in an ongoing love relationship that you have saved, it's still just a substitute for when you are with the person again.

But let's look at a top favorite traditional "text message from God" and observe the totally different feeling from the example I gave above to you.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

This is probably the most universally heard and beloved "text message from God" of all times.

It is from the Twenty-third Psalm, one that is of great comfort for thousands of years of Jewish and Christian life. When one looks at or just thinks about this "saved text message from God," it's not a bittersweet reminder from a past relationship, nor is it a much loved text message from someone who you are apart from. It is a real, continual, constantly renewed and validated text message from God. People who were raised as children to have God as the known and real comfort in their lives tend to have such favorite "text messages" from God, even if the text message is just a picture of the baby Jesus at Christmas time.

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose; beside restful waters he leads me;
He refreshes my soul.
He guides me in right paths for his name's sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage.
You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come.

Many of you, even if not super Bible scholars ;-) will recognize that there are several famous well know "text messages from God" in this one great short and sweet Psalm. In addition to the first line, these are also well known passages that are recalled in heart, if not word for word, my many:

Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil.


Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord [forever].

Whenever one thinks of these three, or any other, "saved text messages from God," they are not frozen remembrances of something that was once true or relevant, but may not be anymore, or at least less so. When one "reads" these "saved text messages from God," you are receiving them anew in the here and the now, over and over, and they never age, become irrelevant, sad, or diminished. It is exactly as if whenever you think of these "saved text messages from God" that he is sending them to you on the spot, because that is the truth. That is one reason why the Bible is called the "living word" of God. It is because it is like saved text messages from God that are sent anew to you, eternally new and current, and all you have to do is think of them to receive them on your "cell phone."

Young people, why not program into your cell phone or whatever your "communications device" may be those three saved text messages from God? See, there are many easy and fun ways to learn, to plug the gap, that may exist between your previous lack of knowledge of God's reality and a fresh new beginning. Put God in your contact list! Really, do program him in :-) and then start to save texts like these.

Here is another one from Psalm 25:

To you I lift up my soul.

This is a reminder that God is always, always, ALWAYS there, and is always in reach, if only you lift up your soul to him.

So have a little fun, but also use that texting capability for some "eternal reality!" I know that people have Bible passage storing programs and capabilities for all communications devices, but that is not what I am teaching tonight. I am teaching something very approachable and very simple. Put God on your contact list and then save a few text messages from him, using the scriptures (or the Qur'an if you are Muslim). Start to get used to this analogy, which is real and genuine, that favorite pieces of scripture are EXACTLY like receiving a beloved and new text message from God over and over again, whenever you want it. That gives the modern texting person a taste of what it is like to have God as your genuine, full time, 24x7 "text buddy," one that never diminishes and never breaks up with you (you can only leave him), and is never out of date or expires. The scriptures, and the Bible events, are the living eternal word of God, and his relationship with all who truly seek him as he really is.

I hope that you have found this helpful and also fun!