I have people-centric jobs, yet fight to spend time with people. I am a counselor, pastor, chaplain, and teacher chained to a computer much of the day. And it’s not optional. There are daily, weekly and monthly reports to be filed, emails to be read and sent, social media to update, websites to maintain, documents to produce, mandated electronic records to keep, resources to create, and even blogs—of all things—to write!
There would be bulletins to produce and monthly newsletters, as well, but our church does not use them; I refuse to spend time on them, given their poor return on investment.
The investment that does pay off—in strengthened lives, empowered people, healed wounds, and functional families, is in real relationships with people. Yet, with two working spouses, sports commitments nearly every night and weekend, smartphones that allow us to work all the time, and nearly everything but gassing up the car requiring us to go online—who can be away from a little screen long enough to talk with a flesh-and-blood person?
Even people who get coffee at a coffee shop “ to be with people” sit staring at little screens instead of engaging with people around them. It’s like a scene from a disturbing sci-fi movie. I see kids at bus stops staring off into space with earbuds in their ears, intentionally walled off from each other by personal playlists.
Jesus’ last prayer on earth surprised me. In John 17, he prayed for his disciples and all those who would follow in faith. Imagine the myriad things Jesus could have prayed! But, of all the options, what did he pray? He prayed, “…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” (v.21) (NIV) He prayed for relationships.
He prayed that people be united; that they are one as he and the Father are one. If that’s the case, then what is going to be a top priority of the liar/enemy/deceiver/destroyer? To isolate and divide, of course.
And hasn’t he done a marvelous job of it!?! He has even taken the most intimate, connectional experience imaginable—the intimacy capable of producing a human life—and turned that into a disconnected “hookup.” There are even less connected substitutes online.
Brain scans have shown us so much, including the neurological and chemical responses created in response to human interactions, like looking into another’s eyes, having a conversation, working as a team, receiving a smile, non-sexual touch, and caring intimacy.
God made our bodies with a need for human relationships that cannot be substituted by cyber connections. Thus, our adversary—in the name of convenience and productivity (measured in time, currency, and inanimate objects, not human well-being), has isolated us into boxes.
We live in sealed-up boxes; drive in wheeled boxes; sit in office boxes, and holding hands all day with an electronic box.
It wasn’t meant to be this way. We are made for relationships… for real human relationships. You’re to be commended for being on this blog; your presence here shows you value the same.
Dr. Burford specializes in relationship counseling, both in premarital and marital guidance. A graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, he has been a Presbyterian minister and contributor to Chicken Soup for the Christian Family Soul. Dr. Burford has been married 30 years and is a father and grandfather.