Wednesday, November 26, 2008
IMing with God...LOL
Zoe, my 15 year old daughter, is in Ecuador, nearing the end of her 3rd month there. She's in a "study abroad" program and spending a semester (5 months) in Quito, living with a host family, going to high school, having a life. A life separate from ME. The program she's a part of strongly discourages family from visiting during the student's foreign stay because they believe it only makes the homesickness worse--kids tend to leave the program mid stream most often AFTER a visit from family. So we are being compliant about that--we're not going to go down and see Zoe.
They also tell you to only talk on the phone once a week, for the same reason pretty much...the more the kids are in touch with you, the more attached they feel, and the harder it is to be apart. On this front we have NOT been compliant. We like to think they made up these rules before we were all so digitally connected...these days, there are so many ways to stay in touch with each other. Cheaply. And many of them, almost instanly. I do instant message chats with Zoe nearly every day, we email, we follow each others' exploits and "status updates" via Facebook, I read Zoe's blog (and she reads mine) we have video chats through Skype. We even speak cell phone to cell phone via Skype...but, we only talk on the phone about once or twice a week, so on that front, I like to think we are at least being semi-compliant.
I have to say I really LOVE all these communication options. I love me and Zoe's brief afternoon chats through IM while I'm at work and she's doing homework (or more likely IMing with 6 other friends at the same time). I love saying something and getting the reply "LOL" back from her--I've made her laugh--I've made her feel good! And her little "LOL" makes me feel good too. It's also really wonderful to be able to write long emails to her, to share my thoughts and feelings in a more introspective way than I normally do via IM or on the phone. And to get those kinds of emails from her in return is amazing--I often say, it's like she is 15 going on 25. In her emails she is so wise and thoughtful and interesting. I read and re-read them. Ponder them. Talk about them. And then there's the blogs -- primarily Zoe uses her blog to share stories of life there. And she's got some great stories--from learning how to march military style, to getting stung by mutant bees. And she tells her stories so well, with lots of detail and humor.
Each medium is a different way of communicating and each one gives me another piece of the picture and taken together they help me feel as close as I possibly can to my daughter without actually being able to put my arm around her in the flesh.
I've been thinking about this in relationship to my Affirmation Group -- one of the things we talked about on the retreat was the Bible. How it's an important book to read, but also it's a very hard book to get into. For lots of reasons. It's not written in plain English for one thing. It's hard to understand because it was written for a certain time and place and if you don't have the context, stuff doesn't always makes sense. It's contradictory. It's poetic. We've all been told what to think about it and that it's Important and Meaningful and that sort of makes it something you'd just as soon avoid...what if it doesn't seem so important and meaningful to you? Does that make you stupid? There's also the problem of it being a "great book." I have trouble with that. Like whenever a book comes out that becomes very popular and everyone loves, loves, loves it, I kinda don't want to read it, I guess because I don't want to be just like everyone else.
Anyway, the Bible is hard for me to get into and the Affirmation kids (and their mentors) seemed to have the same experience with it. To help us talk about this, I brought the boxed set of Griffin and Sabine books to the retreat. These are beautiful books and they tell their stories primarily through correspondence between the main characters, Griffin and Sabine. The letters are included in the books as actual letters you pull out of actual envelopes and read. And it's cool, it's fun, it's "interactive" and involving. We were talking about how the Bible is this collection of letters and stories and poetry and songs and history...and if the author of Griffin and Sabine had put it together instead of some old guys in dark dusty rooms wearing dark dusty clothes who think being "scholarly " is actually a compliment, we might have a Bible that was more compelling to read. At least at first glance. Once you find your way through the muck, you often can be amazed at what is actually there. How much insight and understanding and wisdom and humor. But it's really not easy to get there.
It also seems like the Bible is much like my various means of communicating with Zoe--some parts of it are like IMs--short, pithy, fun little gems, other parts more like her blog, full of good stories, well told. And others are more like the emails, thoughtful musings on life and the meaning of everything.
I was also thinking how connecting with Zoe makes me feel closer to her--however I connect with her. Which is probably kind of the point of the Bible as well. Not the words themselves as much as the fact that the words are there. Not what they say as much as the fact that they were said--there is an attempt being made to reach across space and time from worlds apart and touch each other, if not in the flesh, then deep in the marrow of our bones. And touching each other in this way helps us know each other in a way we wouldn't if we were in the same city, the same house, trying to deal with getting to school on time and whose turn it is to clean the cats' little box. It helps us miss each other less on some level, but it also makes us miss each other more because we see each other more clearly. And we really, really enjoy what we can see.
I think it would help me to think of the Bible more like this correspondence with Zoe. And imagine that God misses me and is trying to be close to me. And to read the correspondence from God with the same kind of anticipation and tenderness and pleasure that I feel when I read Zoe's blog posts or IMs or emails.
One of the things that scares me about this way of looking at the Bible is that I might end up wanting to be closer to God, and no telling where that might lead. I often find myself signing off my emails to Zoe: "I miss you desperately. " I'm not sure I'm ready for that with God. Not sure I'm ready to let myself feel that much love. And longing.