Tonight was a first for me on many counts. To begin, I haven’t been home for a while, so it was a strange night in that my mom cooked Chinese food and we ate around the dining room table. That’s not a “first” so to speak, but it was strange nonetheless. It was a welcome break in my recently hectic schedule so praise God for the opportunity to have a sit-down meal with everyone.
But my first “first” was the conglomerate of occasions that this meal was supposed to celebrate. I’m used to celebrating my birthday with my two brothers because each of our birthdays are ten days apart, but we included a Chinese New Year celebration in our meal tonight. That’s a first. So not only was this dinner supposed to cover the multitude of birthdays during this time of year, but also the ever-important, “rebel-against-the-Western-calender” New Year that seems to annually be the biggest occasion for Chinese people. Don’t ask me why. So that was interesting.
The second, and more important “first”? I had dinner with a inanimate object. Namely, my little sister’s laptop that projected a picture of my younger brother, David, into the room. He saw us, we saw him. And we were able to enjoy some fun family conversation that I had missed so dearly ever since I moved out. Of course, he wasn’t eating with us, and yes, there were momentary glitches in the feed that made us repeat sentences and speak louder than usual, but that’s beside the point. Tonight, we had a family dinner.
Now, I must applaud technology for this feat. If it wasn’t for the brilliant engineers and Al Gore (for inventing the internet, of course), I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to have dinner with my brother on this very special occasion(s). He’s all the way in Argentina for a year, but the ability to hear his voice and see his face from time to time is truly a blessing from God. Still, I was shocked at the accessibility. Technology has truly permeated every aspect of our lives.
In my mind (you didn’t think this post would end with that, did you?), it did make me wonder what people did before the advent of the internet, or mass communication. I think about Paul and his many missionary journeys: How he travelled across land and sea without the slightest whisper of a close friend or the glimpse of a familiar face, all for the sake of the gospel. He must have truly enjoyed the time that he was able to spend with his brothers and sisters in Christ. Can you imagine the scene when he got back from a long and arduous journey? When he finally sees the people he’s been writing letters to? He must have been overjoyed by the sight! There is a sense in which his inability to experience a friend at the touch of the button caused him to remember and cherish moments that he did have with them.
I wonder if we’ve become desensitized to each other. I wonder if we’ve become so accustomed to having access to people that we rarely cherish real moments of encouragement and face-to-face interaction. It’s so easy to text a verse, or email an encouragement, or chat online about the bible, but there’s always something lost in translation. There’s still something genuine about a good ole hand-written letter, or getting coffee with a friend to see how they’re doing, or even a phone call to follow up on an issue they’ve been dealing with. Is your grasp of technology detrimental to your ability to encourage another person effectively? Does it glorify God that you neglect genuine interaction and therefore genuine encouragement? Why are you so inclined to text or email a friend rather than call them or meet up with them? Is it because you idolize your own comfort? Is it because you want to avoid actually spending time on a person? I think it’s important that we evaluate our hearts on this point.
I worry that when David returns, it’ll be like any other day in my life because I’ve been able to talk to him all this time. I worry that he won’t really know how much his physical presence means to our family and our friends. I worry that he’ll think that I didn’t actually miss him because my reaction to him coming back is so, nonchalant. I worry that he won’t know how much I actually miss watching those Laker games with him, how much he means to me as a friend. I need to cherish moments with him when he gets back, this I know. And hopefully through that, he’ll know that living life with him around far exceeds life without him.