Monday, 16 May 2016

The tragic reality

So, there I was, after hanging on a 'please stay in the queue... your call is important to us' line for a long time, trying to resolve the issue of why my new modem was not talking to my computer and was, in fact, causing it to freeze.
Than I get through. The guy from the service department goes through the motions... was the device/line/filter all connected correctly? Once he'd checked they were, he runs a test ... the line signal was weaker than it should be. Maybe the modem is faulty.

Um, I don't think so - the phone's working and there's wi-fi on my tablet. What I'm trying to resolve is why is my computer freezing? Surely, if there is a signal (which there was) and it's registering elsewhere (which it did), then there's another problem here.

The service centre ignores this. The call ends with the company deciding to mail another modem, and me very aware that the root problem -what's happening to my computer- hasn't been touched.

I ponder on this and then do my own search to find if others have had the same trouble, and sure enough, they have, and there, on the discussion page, is a procedure to resolve it. I follow the simple instructions, and a minute later, the issue is resolved and my computer is back to normal.

It's a telling case of miss-diagnosis, due to really poor (inadequate) communication.

Most of us of course have had this kind of experience with technical or product issues, but it made me wonder how often does this issue arise in other more important fields?
Like dealing with the 'tangle of wiring' that make us us?

Miss diagnosis is a truly huge headache.
Whether you're looking at medical, social or psychological fields, there's a plethora of data to show just how quickly mistakes can be made, and the reason, often, is that there's a lack of meaningful engagement with a person initially to truly get to the heart of their troubles and then seek to provide a real solution to the problem.

The real human condition is a mine field, and often, we are woefully beneath the task of dealing with this well.

So, what does it take to get it right?

We can get a helpful glimpse into this when Jesus meets the woman at the well (John 4).

The first point to notice here is that Jesus is outside the bounds of what would be seen as approved of/normal in His day - He's spending time publicly talking to a woman who is a member of a culture that was deemed excluded by His own society. Good communication almost always involves putting aside such segregative and alienating conventions if we really want to get to know someone. Reaching those who were deemed 'unclean' - touching someone at a point that counts isn't easy and is often costly - that's often why we're so bad at it. Convention makes it easy for us to 'go through the motions' and "engage" at the level of a narrative, to borrow from Shakespeare, 'shared by fools, signifying nothing'.

Secondly, He begins by simply using the commonplace and immediate (having a drink) as a means to step into conversing about deeper things - what really matters in life. This is where discernment really comes to the fore. We can so often "jump in"  (the annoying street stranger, asking if you're saved or born-again) when it comes to talking about what counts without really 'hearing' or knowing what's important to who we're talking to, and without truly wanting to do what Jesus does here - He

touches on a deep desire (10-15) and then
touches what prevents that desire from being met - on the person's sin (16-18)

Notice what really counts to this woman. Yes, she tries to evade Jesus' homing-in on her immorality (vs 20), but even in that, she is still showing an interest in the major theme that Jesus has raised - how and where people know and worship God (the deep desire). Her need for intimacy and connection (a string of partners) is clearly associated but miss-placed to the common longing we all share for being right with God and each other.

Jesus responds by clearing away the clutter and cutting through to what counts (vs 21) and the following conversation and results are striking (verses 23-43), but also notice how the Disciples of Jesus just didn't get it (27). They were still a long way from truly comprehending what truly mattered - 'feeding' the world's deepest need of life from God.

My 'communication' with my internet provider concluded with them sending me a customer satisfaction survey to complete on-line, which, of course, I wouldn't have been able to do in the situation their 'customer service' had left me in (!).  It spoke volumes.

That's the status of life outside of what God gives us... dislocated, frozen, and so in need of a real answer.

God is here, thankfully, in Christ, to bring us meaningful help in our time of need.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Reconciliation that excels desolation

"And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in His heart 'I will never curse the ground again because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth".
Genesis 8:21.

Bob Dylan, of course, got it about right.
Back in the early 80's, there was a song that got a lot of play time in my house.

Slow Train Coming spoke about fools trying to manipulate dark powers, the enemy guised in what appeared to be honorable, of those who empty the soul seeking to supplant religion, of a day when ambition is always encouraged to trump an inner need for something other than consumerism, leading to mass manipulation and despair.
It's a pretty sobering but honest evaluation of our times.

We have, of course, been here on various occasions before.
The Genesis record tells us of a generation which had become consumed by such evil so that there was no longer any respect or reverence for anything of true worth in their minds, their desires and deeds entirely bent in upon themselves |(Genesis 6:5,6).

Mercy sometimes can only really visit us in one form - a shutting down of our own misery.
The flood ends a perished world, but it's a termination cradled in promise and providence.

Think for a moment about the original fall of our race.

When God expels Adam and Eve from Eden so that they didn't eat from a fruit that would have left them eternally divorced from meaningful existence (Genesis 3:22), it was because He wanted them to find, amidst the woe and anguish they had brought upon themselves, the certainty that He was still with them and wanted, more than anything, for them to trust that He alone would bring them once more to the garden and to fulfillment.

The goodness of all that makes life bountiful is indeed meant to point us to the truth (Ecclesiastes 3:11)  that what counts isn't concluded in our own selfish, self contained satisfaction (an abyss that is never fathomed) but only in giving is there a truly greater joy, because that reflects something of the nature of the Father, Son and Spirit in whom we were intended to love and live.

As the waters of the great flood subside and Noah and his kin are finally released from the ark, he builds an altar and gives offering to God in thanks for their deliverance (Genesis 8:20). After desolation, Noah understands that his first act must be one of thankfulness for being given what none of us own, and his genuine gratitude is richly rewarded (Genesis 8:21-22).

Christ came, delighted to do the will of His Father - to be born a man, to suffer and be cruelly killed that He might speak to us of the astonishing love that God has for our deeply dislocated race (Romans 5:8). He offered Himself as the sacrifice, that God may show mercy that is as deep as it is wide, but in spite of such clear interventions in our history, our race still chooses to despise to scorn and to reject such love - so deep is the poison that must be drawn from within.

We are, at our deepest point, in need of the greatest aid.

God has come to us, come amongst us, to make us whole once more.

Whilst we were far from Him, He has sought us out and enveloped our dead realm with His full mercy in His Son. The reality of our desolation can only be resolved when that freedom, that reconciliation, becomes our life.