Party Lines and Prayer Time

When I was younger and would complain about not being able to use the phone, my parents would remind me about their youth and “party lines.” In a nut shell, their telephone line was connected to several other families’ telephone lines. If you wanted to make a call, you often had to wait until one of your neighbors was finished. And, even then, you didn’t dial the person you wanted to speak to directly; you’d call the operator and she would connect you. It was a tedious, unreliable, and time-consuming process.

I may not have grown up in the age of “party lines” or “calling the operator,” but I do remember a time when we had just one landline to share among 4 people, a time before answering machines or call waiting or even caller ID. When I was in high school, we had internet connected to our home, but it was dial-up, which meant you couldn’t use the phone and be on the internet at the same time. In a house with two teenage girls, this led to a lot of, um, disagreements about whose socialization was more urgent.

And the crazy thing is…it wasn’t that long ago! I may be old-er but I’m not ancient, and these power struggles over communication channels happened less than 25 years ago. Nowadays, my children are growing up in the most connected time in history. Nearly every device in our home is powered by the internet and we can use all of them at the same time! We no longer have a landline but, if someone needs to get ahold of me, they can reach me on my cell, through email, Facebook, or Twitter, text message or FaceTime, no matter the time or place: in my home, in my car, at the store. In fact, we are now living in a world with the OPPOSITE problem of my youth and, much more so, my parents’. Where once we struggled to connect, now we are living in a world where it feels impossible to DISCONNECT! Even airplanes, that once safe haven of disconnection 30,000 feet in the sky, are now massive, flying wi-fi hot spots.

But the funny thing is that now, in this time of unescapable connectivity, it sometimes seems as if we are the least connected to the One with whom we should be most intimately entwined: God.

In Deuteronomy 31, Moses spoke to the Israelites about the promise of God’s presence. In verse 6, he says “…he will never leave you or forsake you.” Jesus Himself reiterated this promise in the New Testament when, in Matthew 28:20, He reminded the disciples that “…and surely I am with you always, to the end of the very age.” In fact, as believers, we not only have the promise of God’s presence with us, but within us in the form of the Holy Spirit.

You can’t get more connected than that.

And yet why do we so often live as if that’s not true?

Why is it, in my moments of deepest loneliness, I pull up Facebook rather than engage with the One right there beside me? In times of trouble, why do I post a tweet rather than pray? When anxiety swells or simple boredom rears its head, why do I call/text/email/Facetime rather than sit quietly in the presence of my Savior?

Why is it my first inclination to always be so connected to everyone and everything else FIRST, but the One who created me, knows me intimately, loves me deeply, and who is always right beside me (even in those rare moments when my phone is not)–why is it I turn to Him second…or third…or not at all?

I’m not saying being connected is bad. God created humans to be in relationship with one another, and nurturing those relationships, especially godly ones, is not only healthy, it’s an imperative part of a full and fulfilling life. Nothing brought this more in focus than the COVID pandemic, when millions were suddenly cut off from these life-sustaining relationships, causing mental and emotional health levels to nosedive. Connection is not just something we want; it is something we need.

But no earthly, human-to-human relationship can ever replace the deep longing of connection that can only be filled by our Heavenly Father. The best marriage, the closest friendship, the tightest sibling bond is still no match for fellowship between the Creator and His created. And the fantastic news is that, because of the cross, He is always available! God is never too busy or too tired for us and, because of Jesus, our sin is never too great. The veil is torn, the curtain is open, and the very presence of God is there with us every second of every day, just waiting for us to acknowledge and engage.

You see, if we truly lived out the words we as believers so often repeat (“God is with me”), and we fully understood the magnitude of having the GOD OF THE UNIVERSE beside us at all times, ready to listen, to connect, to lavish us with blessings beyond our wildest dreams, we would realize just how empty and meaningless most of our other humanly attempts truly are. Don’t treat the words of God’s promise as mere words–embrace them as truth, filling you with the power of a reality greater than any screen.

“Come near to God, and he will come near to you.” (James 4:8a)

Let the constant connection of the world serve, not as a distraction, but as a reminder of a God who knows you, loves you, and doesn’t need a Facebook account to be your friend. He has always been, will always be, and longs to be the one you turn to in the good, the bad, and the every day.

And you don’t even have to wait your turn.

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