Monday, August 19, 2013

More than a sound bite

A few weeks ago I was talking with my dad and he mentioned a story that I had read on Facebook.  Oddly, my first inclination was not to listen more attentively to hear the rest of the story, my first thought was “Oh yeah, yeah, I read about that.”  I didn’t say anything, but kept on listening and found that I didn’t actually know the story. All I knew was the sound bite. I knew the simple sentence summary of what had happened, but I didn’t actually know the story.  And it hit me, I’ve become complacent, comfortable even, with only knowing the sound bite.  The busyness of life has made it so I don’t have long car rides where I call to catch up with friends.  My evenings are mostly dedicated to family time (unless of course I’m at a church meeting) and so I don’t hear the long narratives of my most beloved friends very often. I only see the sound bites, or the occasional picture, and the truth of the matter is I’m missing out. 

So I’ve slowed down my Facebook usage.  I don’t scroll as often and I don’t post as often.  I feel like others have fallen into the same trap, assuming they know me because they read my one sentence summary of my vacation or my week or my struggle.  But they don’t know the real story, they don’t know the fullness of what is happening or how I’m feeling, and that leaves me feeling like they don’t know me.  If you’re a friend (or even family for that matter) I don’t say any of this to be accusatory or condescending.  I say it because I think you are more than a sound bite.  And I want to know more than the simple sentence summary. 

Most days I don’t regret not having a commute.  I love being able to be home in 5 minutes or back to the church in a flash if I have to. But there are other days when I wish I had an hour each way to sit and talk with a friend and catch up on life and family and ministry.  I miss those long talks.  I miss the time of being together despite the distance that separates us.  And I miss knowing more than a sound bite. 

If I were to wax theological, I would say that our relationship with God often falls into similar patterns.  Often the sound bites (the short prayers before a meal, the quick online sermon or the one hour in worship) feel sufficient.  We know a little bit and so it feels like we know something real, we know enough. And yet, if we stop to think about it, we don’t know the whole story, all we know is the sound bite.  Knowing “God loves you” or “God wants more from you” feels sufficient to get us through the week. But if we let that be our pattern, if we let that be sufficient for long enough, we find that we are missing something greater.  In essence the sound bites fool us into losing touch.  They fool us into believing that our relationship can survive at a bare minimum.  And the truth is that that’s a lie. Our relationships cannot withstand the hardships of life or even celebrate the truth breadth of joy if all we have is the simple sentence summary.  We need more. We need more from each other and we need more from God.  

I'm not trying to knock Facebook.  I appreciate the ways it has connected me with people and lives that I probably wouldn't have sought after if left to life pre-social media.  I love seeing the pictures in particular.  I like seeing friends and their kids and feeling connected in a way that's more sustained than once a year for a visit or a holiday.  But I also think it has it's dangers. It can lead us to feel more connected than we are and then when we seek out depth of relationship in a time of need, we find ourselves coming up short and even feeling let down by a lack of response on Facebook.  Not that friends shouldn't respond, but maybe we need to take time to invest in some deeper sharing more often.