How do you feel about video calls? I think we’ve all taken part in a lot of them over the past year: Zoom calls for work, FaceTime with friends and family, all kinds of quizzes and games held through tablets and phones! They’ve been a way to stay connected with colleagues and loved ones during a pandemic, but it maybe wouldn’t be our first choice when other options are available.
In truth, while I am fine with video calls and meetings, I much prefer the in-person version. With video, you are missing things like body language, eye contact and the opportunity to connect with people in those minutes before and after a particular event. We feel constantly ‘seen’, and while we might feel okay scratching our nose in someone else’s living room, we’re much more guarded when there’s a camera in front of us!
The fact is, connecting with others is so important. It doesn’t always need to be in person – in fact, some of my most meaningful conversations have been through text messages or email. But I think we all know the impact that genuine connections – in whatever format – have.
Getting to know you
I wonder what impression you have of Jesus from the Bible. Perhaps you recall the miracles he performed, the humble circumstances of his birth, or his sacrifice and suffering on the cross. As important and powerful as those things are, I often bring to mind the image of somebody who took the time to get to know people.
In Luke 19 we read the story of Zaccheus the tax collector. Jesus doesn’t seem to show much regard for the common view of tax collectors of the time – as unjust cheats and liars. Instead, he walks into the situation with his eyes on the prize and chooses to spend time with Zaccheus the man, getting to know him and understand him. Although we see the effects of his encounter with Jesus, we’re not told how Zaccheus felt at the moment he is picked out of the crowd, nor what he and Jesus talked about that day – but I can imagine. When someone chooses to spend time finding out more about us – our interests, our concerns, our problems – we feel valued, worthwhile. Connection is so important. I think it’s what humans are meant to do. It can be a moment of light in a dark day.
In your own words
Later on in Luke, we find two disciples making their journey to Emmaus having just discovered Jesus’s body missing from the tomb. Jesus approaches them, though they do not know it is him. He probably knows exactly what it is that they’re talking about, but still takes the time to ask: ‘What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?’
Why? Why does he do that? I think it’s because it doesn’t just matter to him what troubles they are facing, but how they feel about it. He wants to hear things in their own words, to understand the effects of those things.
I think we can learn two things from looking at how Jesus connects with people. The first is the great power that we all have within our communities to listen. Sometimes we feel as if we cannot do much to help someone – whether it is at work, home or within our friendship groups. Practically, this may be true, but making the time and space to listen to somebody, to feel what they feel and to really connect – that is transformative. We should learn from the example that Jesus set here on earth. We may know the details of a person’s experience, but have we taken the time to hear it in their own words, as they express their concerns and hopes? Perhaps there is somebody you can reach out to today, to ask how they’re doing.
Secondly, I think we can all be encouraged by Jesus’s desire to hear from us on our own terms. I shared with somebody recently that I was finding a particular situation so perplexing and disheartening that I was struggling to pray about it. Each time I began, my mind wandered and became overwhelmed. He reminded me that sometimes that is just fine – the prayer equivalent of a scream or a sigh is enough for our God who knows us and wants to hear from us. Just as Jesus demonstrated on the road to Emmaus, our feelings and frustrations matter to him.
Speak to God
Take a moment to pray just now. Let’s thank God for his desire to get to know us; let’s share what’s on our hearts just now; and let’s ask him for eyes to see those around us, and ears to listen what they say.