For those who have my cell phone number, they’ve probably noticed that I’m not one for texting. I do my best to do it, but in the end, it’s not a way of communication that I appreciate.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not annoyed by it. I just don’t appreciate it like so many others do.
One reason that I don’t like it is because it takes me far too long to craft a text message. I’m a rigid perfectionist when it comes to writing stuff. In fact, my own family finds good reason to tease me over the whole texting thing. They poke fun at me because when I do it, I use complete sentences, being sure to take the time to punctuate everything fully and correctly. That takes a lot of work when you’re only using your thumbs and switching between character screens.
Another reason I’m not much of a texter is that it’s inconveniently convenient, giving people the false security of instant responses to questions that could probably wait for another time. I suppose I should add to this that sometimes I don’t even understand what people are so hurriedly communicating to me. I know it sounds ridiculous, but for as savvy as I may appear in social media circles, I literally just learned ten days ago what “smh” and “lmk” meant. Before that, I could’ve cared less to know what they meant. I would see these in a text or an online post and just move along as an admitted outsider in the SMS language community. I never cared to learn these lazy phrases. As a result, I suppose that many appropriate replies went unsent over the years because I didn’t realize someone was telling me to let him or her know. I’m pretty sure that when people typed that to me, I responded with something like, “Are you okay?” because as far as I knew, it meant “Landed on My Keys!” and of course we should all, especially the pastor, show concern for someone who suffers such an accident, right?
Well, whatever. I guess you could say that I’m a guy who believes that words matter, that the language structures they rest in matter, that the time spent in contemplative care of the words matters. There’s already enough communicative confusion in this world, and texting seems counterintuitive to that. It has me asking myself, “Would a little more time and precision in our efforts to communicate really be all that bad?”
Think on the use of the comma. A misplaced comma has huge ramifications. Take for example the following cover of “Tails” magazine.
Without the proper placement of commas, it sure seems like Rachel Ray discovers her innermost creativity while preparing to sauté both her family and her pets for consumption. The next thought would then be: “This is one incredibly creative woman, and so how many families and pets has she 86’d and eaten over the years?”
Again, care in these things matters. Texting exchanges care for efficiency, and I’m not so sure that’s the best trade off. I’d much rather have a phone conversation than a text or instant messenger conversation. I find that a phone conversation—or even better, a face to face conversation—has a much better chance of ending well, especially in the contentious situations in which we sometimes find ourselves in the virtual world.
What’s funny is that folks will send me a text message saying that they didn’t want to call because they know how busy I am, not realizing that sending me a text with the expectation of a reply is a lot harder on my regular pace than a phone call because it takes me so long to type something.
And by the way, I’m never too busy for a phone call from anyone. Never. Except maybe a phone call from a politician, or someone trying to sell me the latest video series from Joel Osteen. I suppose I can let those particular reach-outs land in voicemail.
I suppose I’m sharing all of this because it sparked some pastoral thoughts, and it’s something that any clergyman most likely notices during Lent. This is the time that preachers are crafting some of the heaviest sermons they’ll preach all year.
Pastors are handlers of language, and not just any language, but God’s language—God’s Word. The Word kills and makes alive. Pastors deal in the Word. We do this while we’re teaching. We do this while preaching. We do this to lead a gathering of Christians. We do this in order to hold the line against the enemies of the church assembling at her gates. Ultimately, we do all of this with care because the Word of God is the means by which God reveals His efforts for our salvation through Christ, and it is the sole source for faith, life, and practice. Knowing all of this, pastors are not to approach the Word of God as casual and careless visitors. They are to have great fear and love for God’s Word. They are to take time with it as they seek to serve Him in faithfulness and humility. God’s Word is more than just simple text messaging. It is the precise means of God’s divine revelation to man. If we mess it up—that is, if we mix up the lines of its communication—we jeopardize eternity for real human beings.
Without going further, I think you get the idea how slacking off in the handling and communication of God’s Word isn’t something we ever want to discover in our midst. But add to this that as individual Christians, we don’t want to be those who think it’s possible to interact with God’s Word in the barest of passings rather than taking the time to be immersed in it. We want to hear it, love it, study it, be in it, and share it, too. Of course, we shouldn’t ever expect to have such a relationship with it if we only want an association that’s efficient. I could understand such an expectation if God gave us His Word via three-letter text messaging terms. But He didn’t. He gave us a voluminously rich Bible full of wonderfully deep and eternal-life-giving sentences crafted and delivered from His own heart of love.
It’s Lent. Might I suggest for your Lenten fast (if you’re indeed fasting) that instead of giving up coffee, sweets, or whatever, that you try giving up skipping Bible study at your church with your pastor? You might be surprised at how enjoyable you’ll find it to be, not to mention, fulfilling.
No pressure to the folks who are members of my congregation.