The other day while sitting at a traffic light, I saw someone sitting at the bus stop, and using American Sign Language to communicate on a cellphone .(I assume with some sort of video app like FaceTime or Skype) It was an animated conversation, and seemingly intimate. I don’t “speak” ASL fluently, but I know a little about signing. At one point, the man seemed frustrated, and started fingerspelling. I looked away, and gave him a little privacy.
I had never seen anyone use a phone this way before, although it makes perfect sense to be able to communicate without a cumbersome TTY interface. Besides, ASL offers much more nuance than mere words on a screen.
It got me thinking about our communications with God and one another. Some of my friends are phone friends; I really want to hear their voice. Other friends only seem connected when we are physically together. Other friends are email or letter friends; their writing is so beautiful that I want to be able to read it again.
It takes a little while, in a friendship, to figure out the best way to communicate. In my congregation, I make little notes to myself; this person likes to receive a text on their phone, this one only reads email at work, that one has a hard time hearing, but does fine on their phone. With all the various ways we have to communicate, I try to use the one that works best for the person with whom I want to be in touch.
It sometimes takes a little while to figure out how to communicate with God, too. There are many ways, and we don’t have to worry about God understanding; the One who lives in eternity understands all. But we might need to try a few things before we find a means of communication that feels right to us.
Maybe sending emails to God would feel natural to you. Perhaps you get sleepy when you are praying in silence, and need to pray out loud. If sitting still is frustrating, perhaps a dancing meditation would feel right.
God sent us Jesus, the incarnation of the Word, to tell us how deeply we are loved. God also sent the beauty of nature, the experience of love, the words and images of the prophets and the arts. Sometimes, we feel like a fax machine that just can’t quite connect with the “handshake” to our intended recipient. God will be there, no matter how we communicate; try something new and see what happens.