We've all got that friend. It's awkward, embarrassing, and you just don't know if you should tell them or not. You wonder if maybe it's you who has the problem, but then it comes up in conversation with mutual friends and you all look at each other, eyes locking in silent agreement.
They know how you feel.
Yes, we've all got that friend with lousy cellphone service.
That person in your life who has a contract with a random mobile company that they signed up with when they were in college -- even though the company has since been acquired and merged so many times he or she can't remember the original name. Your friend stays with them because "the customer service is so great."
"Because you MUST be their ONLY customer!" you think to yourself.
Every phone call with this friend goes something like, "I'll meet you a_________ , after I t_____________ so be sure you get ___________near the _____________ or else I'll ________________." You grit your teeth and say, "how about I just text you?"
It is really hard for a relationship with someone to grow when we are missing out on every fifth word. We end up at the wrong restaurants, pick the wrong tables and accidentally serve our friends gluten because we don't get the whole picture. We can try to imagine the details and fill in what we don't catch, but that's not the same as getting the whole story.
As frustrated as we are by these conversations, we can inflict similar experiences on ourselves, in our relationship with God.
While we do not speak to God on a cellphone (although if he had one, I bet he'd have some sweet apps). We do have his gifts of Scripture and tradition -- the Bible and the words and deeds that have been passed down for 2,000 years -- to begin and strengthen our relationship with him. These aren't just words on a page, this is meant to be a dialogue between us and God.
Yet we'll stubbornly stay in the "dead zones" and willingly tune out.
I know I consistently ignore the parts that make me uncomfortable or challenge me, or the parts I just plain don't want to think about. It goes something like this. I read, "thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13) or, "the Lord is my shepherd" (Psalm 23:1) and I think to myself, "Checkmate, bingo and yahtzee. I have not killed anyone, and I think the Lord is, in fact, taking good care of me."
But then I read, "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44) and I think, "Love? How about a civil handshake?" Thinking about what this actually means for my life hurts my head -- and my heart -- too much, so I just skip it. Get back to those pages about unconditional love and the shepherd leaving the 99 sheep to find me when I mess up (Luke 15:4).
When we only get part of the conversation, the relationship suffers. This is true for our cellphone conversations with friends and our ongoing conversations with our creator. We can't change our friend's mobile provider -- so when it comes to that guy's flip phone, you're on your own. However, we can embrace the whole message from God -- and persevere through the parts that we find difficult to accept. After all, we weren't the first ones to struggle. From the moment Christ began teaching, people left him because they found his words difficult to follow (John 6:66).
The message is not always easy, but our relationship with God will deepen when we embrace his words entirely.