Thursday, March 8, 2018

Building Relationships

Camera Goes on Japanese Sushi Conveyor Belt

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15

I came across this video taken by a go pro camera and I am not sure if I should be amused or depressed. The camera rode on a conveyer belt in a sushi restaurant in Japan and filmed a few seconds of the lives of about 40 people. (Warning: obscene gesture.)

I was struck by how many people were sitting, presumably with friends, but with their attention on their phones or tablets. I watched a second time and counted. It turns out that nearly 40% of the people caught on film were sitting with humans but spending time on devices.

Now I will admit that I spend plenty of time on the computer and I refuse to put any game apps on my smartphone because I know I will not have the necessary self-discipline to stay away. But, these people are at a restaurant – with friends or family! They are not sitting on a train, or waiting in a line. They are eating out which typically is done for entertainment – or at least human engagement.

How important are our screens to us? Way too important if you ask me.

Every aspect of social media and other apps are specifically designed to draw us in and keep us there. The more time we spend on our devices the more ads we see and that generate revenue. These apps have a vested interest in keeping us absorbed and we apparently have little or no desire to resist. I am remembering that in American Sign Language the concept of temptation is signed by reaching one hand around the other to tap on your elbow. Social media and other enticements on our phones certainly give a constant tap of encouragement to capture our attention.

It would seem to me that spending too much time on your phone is not the biggest problem.  Instead, it is what we are not doing while our devices have our brains held captive.

We aren’t engaged in our world. We aren’t sharing God’s love in the form of interacting with those around us. We aren’t showing empathy, helping others, or even thinking of other people while we are playing a game or checking a social media account. We are totally absorbed in being disengaged.

My work with resilience has shown me that our relationships with each other -- the good, the bad, and the ugly -- are important to our ability to survive and thrive. We depend on each other and benefit from each other, even when we think we are doing it alone. 

God created us to be in fellowship with Him and with each other.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:1-4

God gave us each other. It is His desire for us to care for each other, cry, laugh, believe, and do His work with each other. We cannot accomplish any of this without God. We also cannot accomplish any of this without a relationship with each other.

We don’t have relationships simply because we are related, live close, work, or worship together. We have relationships because we spend time together and because our shared experiences build a strong bond. We need to have many kinds of experiences, good experiences, bad experience, deep experiences and frequent ones. We need to invest in relationships so the relationship is strong when it is needed.

Consider Job and his friends:

And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great. Job 2:13

We can argue that Job’s friends did him little good with their words, but their presence in his suffering was important. They were there with him even if they could do nothing to relieve his pain and despair. This friendship was not forged over social media or by neglect. It was formed by many interactions over time and each of these interactions was present in this event.

God’s attention for us is all-encompassing and it is constant. He always knows our needs and often meets them before we realize we are in want. His relationship with us is built on the love of a perfect Father willing to sacrifice His Son for a relationship with his rebellious children. Nothing tempts Him away from us.

While we cannot form perfect relationships with each other, we can allow God's love for us to direct our relationships with others. Such friendships take work, but they can be entertaining along the way. It is good to remember that even when we struggle in relationships the process of forgiveness can make the bond even stronger.

God will bless our relationships with the people He places in our lives. God sees everything in our lives as having potential to bring us closer to Him.

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