Today: Monday, December 09, 2019

Giving it up for Lent #6 - emails?    (3/21/2010 )

Should it be chocolate… or wine? Actually, what I’d really like to give up for Lent is (dare I say it?)—email.

I know it’s useful. I know some people swear by it. But sometimes I wish we communicated with one another more as people, rather than machines.

I like to see people when I’m talking to them, particularly if I want to say something difficult or challenging or even funny. I like us to see each other’s body language—and the twinkle in the eye, or the determined look.

Phone calls at least give us a tone of voice. That’s missing in a letter, but there are other personal signs: the writing paper chosen, the type of pen used and the style of writing say such a lot. Will it be typed or hand-written, biro or a fountain pen? Plain white, or some lovely thick, velvety cream paper?

‘Hi’, begins an email… if there is a greeting. So often you’re one of a dozen or more names to whom it’s being sent. Then there will be a short communication, which might be asking you to do something. And those automatic things that ask you to send a response to say you’ve received the email... if it’s so urgent, why not call me and be sure?

When God decided to bring help to his people, he came in person—in the form of a tiny vulnerable baby born in poverty among ordinary people. Jesus spent his life talking and responding to the needs of those around him. OK, there wasn’t the technology then: but when Jesus returns, do you think he’ll do it in person or send an email?

Jesus treated each person he healed or spoke to differently, with a response which was right for them and them alone. God wants to communicate with us, to build up a relationship—a personal relationship, through prayer and scripture and other people. And good relationships depend on good communication.

Emails can so easily be misread and misunderstood—a joke can be taken the wrong way, the tone of voice misunderstood. Pressing the ‘send’ button too quickly has happened to all of us; sometimes the effects will be felt all too painfully, but we may never even find out how many other relationships have been damaged permanently as a result…

Like anything, emails are great when used well—which is with sensitivity and respect. Using them less often would be even more sensitive and respectful, however; why not deal with one another in person, as God does?

So it’s probably not practical to give them up entirely this Lent… but maybe we could think more carefully about how, when and why we use them.

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