Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Walking Metaphor

"A walking metaphor," I thought to myself.

I had noticed her as she drove into the gas station. She pulled up to the pumps across from me with her head slightly askew. As she stepped from her car I could see why her head was situated the way it was. She was holding her cell phone between her ear and her shoulder and was carrying on a conversation with someone. At least I think she was. I really don't remember her saying anything. She was a mildly attractive young woman in her early twenties, or as attractive as a person with a phone stuck to her head could be. A pleasant smile was on her face, but there was a distracted look in her eyes.

I went about my business of pumping a few hundred dollars worth of unleaded in the ol' pickup and headed inside to pay. When I got inside, I noticed that she had finished pumping gas and in the process of paying at the counter. She was hunched over her purse, digging for spare change in the crevices near the bottom. I still didn't hear her speak, but I did see that the cell phone was still trapped there on her shoulder as if she had some sort of superglue accident. Eventually she found the nickel she was seeking, gave it to the cashier, and turned toward the door -- her head still tilted to one side.

I watched her as she walked back to her car, got in, and drove away. The phone never left its spot, nestled near her cheek behind a layer of light brown hair.

A walking metaphor.

That young lady, who surely must have a hands-free device on her birthday list somewhere, seemed to be lost in her own little world on the other end of that phone connection. Whoever was there seemed to keep her attention. Yet she was in the midst of driving, pumping gas and paying a cashier with only a minimum acknowledgement that anything existed beyond that phone conversation.

In a way, that's a great picture of some Christian walks I've seen. The connection with Christ is at full strength, influencing everything in life. Faith is a lifeline, just as that phone call seemed to be for the lady at the gas station. And that is fantastic. Except...

I've worked in retail and have tried to communicate with someone who can't seem to be torn away from a cell phone call. Let me tell you, not much will make me feel more disrespected and worthless than for someone to treat me like I was some kind of vending machine instead of a living, breathing human being. The caller seems to be telling me that even though I'm trying to communicate something important, I'm not worth a pause in her conversation. I don't know how the cashier at the gas station felt, but I would have been offended by the phone girl's rude behavior.

I often ask myself if I treat other people as Jesus would. OK, sure, maybe it's the old WWJD question, but I think it's appropriate if it makes me consider my own behavior. In doing my job or running errands or whatever I'm doing, do I treat people like I would like to be treated?

Taking it the next step further, do I, as a Christian, ignore those outside of my faith? Am I, like the cell phone girl, too caught up in my own faith that I look right past those who need what I have?

People used to use the phrase, "Too heavenly-minded to be of any earthly good". And while it's hard to envision a way that I could be too heavenly-minded, the walking metaphor of the girl on the cell phone brought it home. How many times have I acted superior to those people gathered on the street corner or huddled together outside a building smoking? How often has my own attitude gone from shaking my head at someone's poor decisions to utter disgust at that person?

"Lord, help me to see people as you see them. I don't want to be so lost in You that I don't try to get others in on our conversation."


julie said...

In my experience, the close I get to Jesus, the more I'm aware of those around me.
I think the more we embody HIM, the more we love. The more I'm self-focused the more I miss opportunities.

Jon Clayton said...

Ed, I enjoy your blog and posts. Always worth the time to visit. Thanks!

Lauren said...

I appreciate this food for thought and it'll probably come to mind everytime I see someone on a cell phone now.

Phil said...

I dont thnk we can be ever too heavenly minded, but I know what you are talking about,the problem with the seemingly hyper-spiritual person (that some times I too am )is at best misguided zeal and at worst pure hypocrisy.

John said...

I need God to slap me around from time to time so that I stay focused. Too often, I find myself in a 'church work' instead of 'mission of the Church' mentality where I'm crossing off tasks like I'm just doing a secular job.

The spiritual disciplines help to keep my focused. So as long as I don't view them as tasks to be checked off the daily list.