Monday, September 27, 2010

THE POWER OF PRESENCE

Last weekend I had the honor of officiating the ceremony for my sister-in-law Erica and her now husband Ian.  I was the man up front, my wife was matron of honor, and my lovely daughter Becky was a flower girl.  Somehow I managed to not get a pic of us on the wedding day, but here we are at the rehearsal.  It was a beautiful lake view ranch deck in the quaint town of Solvang, CA


Anyway, once the bride had officially been given, the crowd was seated, and we had everyone declare their intentions through our pre-liminary vows, I said these words:

"Ian and Erica… it is an immense privilege for my family and I to be here today. Thank you so much for allowing me the honor of officiating and participating in this special day in your lives. Erica, as your brother, and Ian as your friend and soon to be family member, there is nowhere else I’d rather be today and no other thing I’d rather be doing."

I really meant those worlds.  But for those words to have any meaning, I can't say them in any form other than in person.  Can you imagine if I said them on some tv screen via projector up front or over text as I buzzed their pocket or at that precise moment on both of their facebook walls?  How ridiculous.

Yet, in our world today, it is becoming increasingly popular for people to think they don't need to be present to maintain relationship.   While I suppose a facebook comment or a text message means something, it cannot and does not replace the need for face-to-face contact for friendship.

It's as if we are trying to say, "It's ok. You don't need to really talk to anyone."  Here's an increasing mental list I've been keeping lately:
  • PHONE HELP:  One would think a phone call couldn't be done without an actual human voice on the other end.  Nope.  I called to talk to AT&T the other day and some virtual voice tried to get me to select from a ridiculous amount of options that would open up a new level of more options each time I selected from the previous one, all the while nice automated voice was claiming to be "trying to help me".  Oh for the love of all things holy, give me a human being please.  Took me like 5 minutes to finally find one. 
  • FAST FOOD:  I was in Carl's Jr with Becky the other day because I promised her a milkshake for running an errand with me on our little Daddy trip. When we got inside, there were 2 people behind the counter, one of which we ordered from.  But if I didn't feel like talking to them, I was shocked to discover that I could actually order my entire meal, customizing each item, and then pay for it.... all on a freaking touch screen kiosk to the right if I wanted.  Are minimum wage human beings obsolete now?
  • HOME DEPOT:  I went to Home Depot to get some stuff for youth group today.  There were 12 cash registers, 2 of which had human beings at them.  The other 10 were empty. Instead, there were four "self-check out" automated machines where I could again do everything I wanted without speaking to a single human being.  So, because the lines were so long, I bought $140 worth of stuff from a touch screen robot.  Ridiculous. 
  • BANKING:  As far as I'm concerned, my bank can be permanently closed because the Wells Fargo ATM outside now does everything. I mean I don't have to talk to a soul or fill out a single piece of paper because the ATM will count money, transfer money, e-mail me a receipt, even scan and total my checks all on it's own.  Are you kidding me?  If it could give me something besides only $20 bills, then I guess they really can lock the doors. 
  • BOARDING A PLANE:  Yep, I can actually buy a ticket online, go to an automated kiosk and get my boarding pass, walk up and hand some dude my pass and ID, and then get on a plane, all without saying a word to a single soul if I don't want to.  
  • INVITATIONS: Most of my invites these days don't come from someone actually inviting me, they come in the form of some group e-mail or event invite.  Birthday parties, weddings, graduations, grand openings, you name it... the electronic invitation is the clear leader.
  • CHURCH:  Every weekend people come to our church, sit intentionally by themselves, watch the message on a big television screen, and then get in their car and drive off, never saying a word to anyone around them and then call that "going to church".  I regularly read one church's twitter feed where they actually tell people, "it's ok.  If you missed church this weekend, just watch it online at www.abcdchurch.tv "  Really, now we can virtually attend church and our presence isn't even necessary for a healthy faith community?  
Technology can be cool and useful.  It can also be ridiculous and misleading.  

As a youth pastor, who works with the "internet generation", I'm becoming acutely aware of the desperate need for real people to interact with real people in real time.   

And yes, I'm aware of the irony of this post being on the internet. God help us all.  I'm stupid. 

1 comments:

Neal C Benson 9:15 AM  

Great post bro! Great reminder of the need for human contact in a world that is shunning it right and left.

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San Diego, CA
Husband. Dad. Jesus Follower. Friend. Learner. Athlete. Soccer coach. Reader. Builder. Dreamer. Pastor. Communicator. Knucklehead.

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