It’s a good thing I got my latte only half caff. I’m not sure whether I need to wake up or take a really long nap. The woman at the table beside me is complaining to her coworker about how their manager hasn’t responded to her email. Correction: emails. Six of them as of yet unanswered. Thank God she’s talking about her boss at a vitamin supplement company for whom she works; she could be talking about me.
I’m supposed to be answering emails right now, instead I’m typing this. Actually, I’m supposed to be meeting with someone right now, but they’re late, so instead I’m taking these precious fifteen minutes to answer emails. The queue is long and full—and not with your run of the mill one line response-needed kind either. It’s a bastion of issues, concerns, real life struggles, fears, and a host of other things weighing heavy on hearts.
One of the things technology has done for humanity is press us closer to one another in a smaller world—Facebook makes me feel so close to you, right next to you even. Twitter makes me think I have the whole story. Email makes longform conversation seemingly simple. Texting demands instant responses. Voicemail. Voxer. Voice-texting. Facebook messaging. Chatting. We have more communication tools at our disposal than ever before—and nobody leaves unscathed. For the one whose initiation goes unanswered—or delayed—they’re crushed by their expectations. For the one whose pile of communication keeps building—they’re crushed by the expectations of others.
The answer isn’t to stop communicating, but the bible does have some things to say to the communicator that might be helpful for us:
There is no god, but God:
No matter how much we want a pastor, minister, or friend to solve our problems or the problems we see in others, they cannot. When we jot off a digital initiation to someone whose vocation is people, we tempt them to play God for us—and we are tempted to believe they can and should. Paul says, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
Don’t believe the lie that technology makes someone always available to you. Press into their absence and work out your salvation.
It is the glory of God to conceal things:
There is actually much glory in keeping things quiet and bringing them only to God. The bible speaks so much of what happens in the heart, but we seem to be much more concerned with what happens with our hands and heads. The beauty of journaling is one more of us ought to take up. Within those pages we can pour out our hearts to God so much so that pouring them out to man seems less of a holy thing. Don’t make digital correspondence your mechanism for holy war. It is the glory of God to conceal a matter and the glory of kings to seek them out.
Secret the concerns of your heart, bring them first and mainly to God instead of an email message. Seek God’s glory, not a foolish king’s crown.
Take responsibility instead of passing it on to someone else even if it’s their job:
So often we dash off an email to someone because it’s their job to handle the matter. But—especially for those in ministerial positions—we cannot handle the whole matter. People are a constant waterfall of goodness and difficulty. The beautiful thing here though is that people are God’s gift to His people. Pastors are a gift, shepherds are a gift, but they are not the only gifts. You, reader, are a gift to the Church! Ephesians 4:11 says, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…” If we are tempted to pass off the work of the ministry to a pastor, teacher, or shepherd, let’s remember it’s we who are being equipped by them so we can do the work of the ministry.
Don’t jot off an easy message to someone saying, “We need this ministry!” or “Reach out to this person!” or “This person needs to be discipled.” Saint, do the work of the ministry.
. . .
When people bang up against the humanity of people they think are superhuman, it is actually a gift to everyone. We will fail and we will be failed. We will feel everything is either too much or not enough. Our instinct is to use quick tools to solve problems, but friends, our digital messages pile up under the weight of a thousand more pressing issues. We set ourselves up for disappointment.
How much better to start with the God of the universe, the caretaker of your soul, your heart, your circumstances, and your life. Today you will be tempted to dash off an email, a text, a message, or a tweet that will beg for response. Fight the inclination and find your shelter in the shadow of the Most High. He cares for you.