This past week, I noticed a new communication exchange that I say frequently and hear often from others. It’s when you are talking on your cell, stop suddenly, and say, “Are you still there?” Provided the call is still connected, the other person typically responds with, “Yeah, I’m here.” And then you proceed on.
This recent addition to our cell conversations comes out of necessity, because we have all experienced going on and on about something, only to realize that for the past few minutes you have been talking to yourself. Or the fun moment when you realize your cell is now ringing while you’re still talking, and it’s the person you were talking to, trying to call you back. The next exchange is something like, “Okay, what was I saying when we got cut off?”
The reason we now suddenly stop and ask, “Are you still there?” is a strange mixture of fear and time management. And, of course, to attempt to avoid the frustration of realizing you are not being heard. You are not connecting. And that’s the point of this post.
In our hearts we ask, “Are you still there?” all the time to many different people in countless situations. This ranges from spouses to acquaintances—all our concentric circles. But there is something about today and our relentless drive to be busy that has heightened the “Are you still there?” Quite honestly, you could boil a lot of divorces down to a spouse asking, “Are you still there?” and finally, the answer, verbal or non-verbal, was no. Then there’s kids testing their parents. One more meeting with a boss. One last e-mail. One more voice mail. One final text. All asking, “Are you still there?” knowing in our gut the answer is no.
We could delve deep into all the reasons why we are asking “Are you still there?” more than at any other time in our culture, while answering “no” more than ever to others that are asking us, but this might have to go from a blog to a book. So, as is always the goal here, after we recognize the issue, let’s try some practical application.
1—Decide you will work hard to answer the “Are you still there?’ question from your family, before they even have to ask it—every day. Enough said. If you haven’t been there, then communicate, connect, ask for forgiveness, and re-engage. You’ll remember how.
2—Evaluate your friends. Unless it’s a ministry situation you are called to, if you find yourself on a one-way street with some folks, maybe it’s time to re-place and re-focus. Even if it used to be a super-highway of communication, once people drop off your grid today, it is rare to get re-engagement. Focus on a tight circle where “Are you still there?” is obvious to you both.
3—Guard against your own isolation. Are you so busy that people have become a frustration or distraction? An hour a day on Facebook is not maintaining relationships. Modern tech is awesome and social media can be a blessing, but dying to self and loving our neighbors can’t be accomplished through a Tweet. It’s a face-to face activity.
4—Let nothing or no one substitute the presence of God in your life. I said the presence of God. Him. You. Face to face. Eye to eye. Father to child. The one relationship where you never have to ask, “Are you still there?” because He always is.
So . . . are you still there?
The Lord your God will always be at your side, and he will never abandon you. —Deuteronomy 31:6b CEV