Thursday, April 13, 2006

Cross Connections

I was e-mailed a question today by a man named Hiredhand.   Strange name? Well, I “met” the gentleman in question on an Internet discussion board.  I have many “friends” there with names like Maximus of Texas and Peacebaby.  His question for me was, “What is God saying to you lately.”

Not your everyday question.  Strangely enough, this same morning I received an e-mail from my friend Davlin.  Davlin isn’t his real name… it’s the name of his character on an MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) called City of Heroes.  Davlin, my husband and I (well, Area Man and Nuclear Mom), frequently discussed the meaning of life in between missions to defeat villains.  Davlin is a twenty-something young man living in rural Canada.  Of course, he could be a 13-year old boy from England, a 40-something inmate from California, or a 60-year old grandmother living down my block for all I really know.  Davlin doesn’t play City of Heroes any longer, but he occasionally writes to keep in touch.

Keep in touch.  Reach out and touch someone.  Make connections.  

My dearest friend recently expressed concern about her 13-year old daughter.  She’s a beautiful, sweet, talented and smart young lady – not the type to cause her mother concern.  But her mother has observed that when her daughter’s friendships become too challenging, her daughter is quick to sever ties.  I immediately thought of the Internet.  Our children are growing up in the age of e-mail, instant messaging, and MySpace.   Safety features allow us to screen our messages.  We can hide, lurk, global ignore.   If an internet conversation is getting too uncomfortable, we can easily walk away, change our handle, and block messages.

So what is the connection between Hiredhand’s question, City of Heroes, and my friend’s daughter?   It’s coming – I promise.

I just joined a small group at my church.  The groups are called Real Life Connections, and they seek to allow believers to grow more deeply in fellowship with one another.  The first week, we discussed love, how the word love is really defined by the actions of Jesus.  The second week, we discussed how to comfort those who mourn.  In John 11, the story of Lazarus, Jesus showed His love for His friends Lazarus, Martha and Mary by showing up, listening to Martha and Mary, weeping with them and praying for them – things we all should do to comfort others.  But then He did something we cannot do – He called Lazarus back from the dead, revealing the glory of God and His true nature to those who watched in amazement.   These acts of love set in motion the Pharisee’s plot to kill Jesus (John 11:53).   In John 15:12-13, Jesus says, This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.

We live in a world in which technology has made staying in touch with people so much easier, and yet we are as disconnected from one another as we have ever been.   In the days of Jane Austen, decorum kept conversations and relationships superficial, avoiding topics like religion or politics and staying with safe ones like the weather.  No such decorum exists today.  Strangers share their most intimate thoughts, desires, beliefs and actions with other strangers.  But relationships are no more intimate.  It’s cyber flashing.  We all walk around in trench coats looking for an audience, then FLASH!  We watch for reactions, and if they are favorable, we stay for more.  If not, we close our coats and find another audience.

Cyber relationships are easy.  You don’t have to clean up your house, shower or change your clothes when your cyber friends come to visit.  If the conversation gets too dull, too heavy or too controversial, you walk away with little thought of your cyber friend or the real person behind the computer.   Real relationships are messy.  They take work.  They are risky.  Real relationships are costly.  We may be called to tear our robes, weep, sprinkle dust on our heads and be silent.  

What is God saying to me lately?  This Holy Week, God is saying  Love others as I have loved you.  It’s a costly love, one that will require actions that far exceed my feelings at the moment.

I am not advocating shunning all electronic relationships.   I don’t believe that desserts, for example, are so dangerous because of what they contain, but for what they replace.  If your diet consists of only desserts, you will miss the food that truly nourishes and sustains.  We are called to love others as Jesus loved us, and we can only do so much of that behind online masks.  Jesus shared meals with people, went to the markets where they shopped, the wells where they drew water, the shores where they fished, the temples where they prayed.  He met people in the places of their everyday lives and prayed for them, touched them, healed them, and taught them.  Christ connected with people and loved them, even unto death on the cross.

Jesus is calling me to a leap of faith into the Holy Wild.  He’s calling me to trust Him and follow Him.  He’s asking me to be bold and courageous. He’s commanding me to love others as He loved, no matter what the cost.  He’s calling you, too, and, to borrow from my friend, Steve Brown, He asked me to remind you.