Being a career journalist and writer, I’ve always been fascinated by communications. I often marvel in thinking about how much the art of communicating has changed just in my lifetime.
For instance, my first memories of the telephone: it was the old-fashioned kind, with receiver cradled on its base, a rotating dial for placing a call, and a simple combination of letters and digits for a phone number. The first one I remember was CH (for Charter) followed by five numbers. We didn’t have an area code yet.
For a while we had a “party line,” sharing the same phone line with one or more neighbors. Occasionally we’d pick up the receiver to make a call and hear someone else’s voices on the same line. We’d have to wait for them to hang up before we could use the phone ourselves. When our phone did ring, we had to pick up the receiver and hear the voice to find out who was calling. Can you believe it?
We’d fret over missing a phone call because there were no answering machines – and nothing vaguely resembling voicemail. Printed telephone books contained the names, addresses and phone numbers of everyone in our town. If the city was large, the phone books were huge. The alternative was to dial ‘0’ and get a real person called an “operator” who could provide needed information and phone numbers. Social media? The only thing remotely akin to that was secretively listening in on a party line conversation.
Fast forward to today: Never in the history of civilization have people been more connected. We’ve got phones, email, texting, the Internet, hundreds of TV and cable networks, streaming services, and video communications platforms. Everything literally at our fingertips. And yet, people have never been more isolated.
Why do we, surrounded by such a vast communications jungle, sometimes feel so desperately alone? Because no matter how many “friends” we may have on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter or any other social medium, there’s no substitute for eye-to-eye contact and a human touch.
We were created for relationship, first with God and then with one another. In the creation account given in the opening chapter of Genesis, after He created animals, birds, fish and other living things “according to their kinds,” the Lord decided to create humankind. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…’” (Genesis 1:26).
God clearly desired relationships with His foremost creations – man and woman. After all the wondrous but non-speaking living things He designed, the Trinity of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit wanted a mutual love relationship with mankind. But after “the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7), the Lord understood the man needed companionship. We might say, someone with skin on.
“The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him’” (Genesis 2:18). After introducing Adam to “all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air,” God determined “for Adam no suitable helper was found…. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh….’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife…” (Genesis 2:19,22-24).
Ever since that time, human history has been an unending saga of relationships, good and bad, healthy and unhealthy. As we were designed, God wanted us to yearn for eye contact, touch, conversation, and even the scent of other human beings.
Despite its many benefits, technology can provide no substitute for these needs. That’s why we read declarations such as Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” – as we interact and rub shoulders with one another, we can help each other become better people.
In relationship we can support one another and help in carrying each other’s burdens: “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their work; if one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
During the pandemic, many churches were closed, ostensibly for health reasons. But those closures didn’t enhance spiritual vitality. We need one another – followers of Jesus Christ aren’t intended to function in desperate aloneness. This is why we’re admonished in Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another….”
Relationships are hard. It’s easier to press “Like” on social media or type a quick reply to someone’s post. But relationships are vital. We need to be intentional, to look up (from our smartphones) not only to smell the roses but also to enjoy and engage in the real relationships all around us.
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Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly published, ”Marketplace Ambassadors”; “Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace”; “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” A weekly business meditation he edits, “Monday Manna,” is translated into more than 20 languages and sent via email around the world by CBMC International. The address for his blog is www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com. His email address is email@example.com.