We all want to be relevant — to feel pertinent — to the people around us including new and old acquaintances; friends; neighbors; audiences; and co-workers. I daresay that the COVID-19 Mask restrictions make our relevance to each other that much more difficult to maintain. For example, I have heard people suggest that masks make it much more difficult to be neighborly or friendly. It may be the result of not knowing who we’re even looking at. For example, I can’t be the only person who has misidentified masked friends whether it’s in Church or the neighborhood. I’m not complaining about the protective measures as much as worrying about how it may be disaffecting relationships.
Just last week I drove by PJ who was out walking — I thought it was him anyway. I rolled down the window and gave a shout out only to be stared back with an expression that asked who the heck are you? It was embarrassing for both of us. He wasn’t who I thought he was and I was a stranger to him. Then it happened again the very next day in Church! I approached — abiding by the 6 foot social distancing rule — and enthusiastically greeted a woman who I thought was Brenda. The individual just stared warily as one does with an overly friendly stranger. She apparently was not Brenda. But, maybe she was and she didn’t recognize the masked me! Either way, I quickly retreated holding in check multiple emotions.
Am I worried about becoming irrelevant? Somewhat! So, it is with great comfort that I know that I can approach Jesus without a mask — without fear of feeling irrelevant. Where am I going with this?
Parents want to be relevant to their spouses and grown up children who have children of their own. Yet, natural differences in politics; beliefs; matters of faith and morality; methods of raising children emerge and begin to make both parents and their adult children feel less relevant - and/or respected to the other. The differences seem to expand as we age and our children grow into their own. Generation gaps are very real but do they have to create irrelevance? Just recently I read an article which stated that [forgot the author] the more people and families avoid having discussions about things that are considered taboo in today’s world, [religion, politics, faith, morality] the more we will become irrelevant to each other.
Ironically, we live in the Greatest Communication Period ever — but, this period is being edged out by the Greatest Disconnect Period in my opinion. We have instant messaging; FaceTime; smart phones; and social media to keep us connected to each other. Yet, people seem to have lost the ability to pick up the phone and talk! Or to personally invite someone over. How many times have people lose touch with friends just because someone rolled off Facebook or Instagram? How many people have not been invited to events because they don’t have a Facebook account? As we look around, most of us easily see the hug gap between the left and right; genders and races; politicians and constituents; neighbors and friends. Netflix recently released The Social Dilemma - it's well worth watching. The experts help us realize that this gap is due in part to the like and comment buttons created by Social Media. These two buttons help us to pretend that we are engaging others in conversation without actually doing so. The buttons encourage us to just go along to get along! The end result is lost dialogue essential to empathy and understanding each other better. The urgency to go along to get along explains why people switch stripes from being liberal to conservative and in between — time and time again.
Today, rather than engaging others, we treat them as being irrelevant and unimportant. People actually believe that those who think differently from them need to be reprogrammed. That’s creates a new problem rather than a solution. These same people probably would have called for The Great Saints to be reprogramed. After all, many of them were probably considered highly irrelevant to the people they lived among. What did they do? They kept on being themselves by relying on prayer and sacrificial living. They stayed obstinately opposed to the notion to give up the faith in order to get along. Jesus was completely irrelevant to the Jewish leaders and people! What did Jesus do? He stayed irrelevant to them by remaining true to who He was; his mission and his identity as the Son of God.
This Lent, we ought to consider whether or not God is relevant in our lives and to what degree? May you have a Blessed Easter.