I witnessed something interesting and yet quite sad yesterday morning at the hospital. My husband and I sat in a surgical waiting room while Wayne’s dad received a pacemaker. We had been in the pre-op room with him until they actually wheeled him out to the operating room, but now we waited in the larger room with the family and friends of other patients.
While we waited, a young couple arrived and checked in at the desk. The husband was scheduled for surgery. They were told to sit and someone would come for them. A short time later, a nurse appeared at the double doors and called the young man’s name.
He stood up and walked toward the nurse. The wife sat. He stopped at the door, turned around, and looked her way with his hands raised at his sides, palms up. She never looked at him. Instead her eyes remained locked on the screen of her smart phone.
She could have gone in with him. She could have embraced him. She could have spoken words of comfort. But nothing.
After a few seconds the man turned and followed the nurse through the doors. His wife didn’t look up, but I clearly saw the hurt on his face.
For hours my thoughts kept returning to this scene. This young husband was headed into surgery and his wife didn’t acknowledge his departure in any way. What would cause her to behave this way, with total disregard for his needs?
My mind created numerous scenarios. Maybe they’d argued that morning or their marriage is struggling. Maybe he’s abusive or her heart is with someone else.
I guess it could have been any of these, but my gut tells me she was simply captivated by her email or Twitter. Her husband needed her attention, her compassion, her reassurance, but she was busy updating her Facebook status.
Don’t get me wrong here. I use and enjoy Facebook. And email is the primary way I send and receive information. But all of us need to remember these are merely tools to facilitate communication and relationship and not allow them to replace real relationships.
It’s sad to think this interaction – or rather, lack of interaction – is a sign of our times. Sometimes we are so absorbed with ourselves or our digital lives that we miss real moments and real relationships. Even when it’s important.
Okay, I admit, I possibly read way too much into this particular event. And she did go back to join him later on. However, this kind of distraction is not an unfamiliar sight.
Our culture perpetuates superficial connections. Social media gives us thousands of “friendships” with people we really don’t know and to be honest, mostly don’t care about. No wonder we’re producing self-focused people with few real relationships. Unfortunately, this mind-set also affects our relationship with God and His people.
What we fail to realize is that we need each other for so much more than dozens of likes and a few comments on our status update. God created us for community with Himself and other believers. We cannot be everything God wants us to be outside of a vital connection to His people (Ephesians 4:10-13).
I’ve been guilty of this. I’m challenging myself as much as you. I well know how easy it is to hide behind a screen. It’s neat and clean. My time is my own. I can cover most of my flaws.
But real life can get messy. And honest. And wonderful.
So, here’s my challenge for you and for me. Let’s commit to fostering and forging real community in real life. To love others and allow them to love us. To do life together without any screens in between.
How can you purposefully work to build relationships in real life? What can you do differently than you do now?