Progress Beyond Relationships

I recently traveled thousands of miles south to a location as remote as I’ve ever been.  And in that place I was privileged to live, learn, and worship for several days with some of the truest Christian believers that I’ve  ever met.

Reaching their homes meant leaving the highway and driving for miles down dirt roads so rocky that it seemed miraculous an automobile suspension could survive it. We bumped and jostled, stopped for donkeys and carefully passed goats, until finally, mercifully, we pulled around a dusty bend and into the village where our friends were waiting.

The homes typically consist of nothing more than a cinder block room with a piece of sheet metal over the top. There are windows, but no glass. With doors wide open the chickens wander inside like they own the place. Cooking is all done outside over an open fire, and water is carried one bucket at a time from a well. Multiple beds are in every room and still another outside on the porch. There is electricity but the wiring consists of a frayed extension cord strung through the trees toward a single light bulb hanging in the doorway.

As I give people this description, I’m often asked, “What in the world do the people DO there?”

“Besides their hard work,” I reply, “life is incredibly simple. They share their meals together, lingering over the food and enjoying it until it’s all gone. Afterwards they sit together and talk – three and four generations together. And they laugh, and laugh, and laugh. Every so often they will sing. Occasionally a neighbor will walk over to say hello and sit for a while. Friends walking by on the street call out greetings. And as the evening draws to a close they pray together and thank God for their blessings.

“So basically” I explain – “They don’t have much to do at all, except enjoy each day with the most important people in their lives.”

Flying back home in modern comfort I was immediately reminded how far we have progressed. But it also made me wonder, with all of our advancement what exactly we are progressing toward?

  • We have earbuds to feed us a constant stream of customized music and programming, but unfortunately the sounds in our ears prevent us from hearing what people in the same room with us are saying.
  • We have a dozen options for virtual, real-time communication, but we find it rare to actually sit at the same table, look each other in the eye, and talk.
  • We have televisions and devices with 250 viewing options, but usually don’t watch it together because we find it hard to agree on a program.

RELATIONSHIP is what God designed us for –relationship with Himself and with one another. Yet it seems sometimes like our “progress” is almost sweeping us beyond that very foundational blessing.
…the very thing for which we were made
…the very thing, that deep in our hearts, we most long for.

Maybe you could try a little experiment in simplicity this week.

  • Something radical like sharing a meal as a family and refusing to answer a phone, respond to a text, or scan social media until everyone at the table is finished…
  • Something counter-progressive like going outside together to sit under the stars and waiting to see what kind of a conversation you end up having…
  • Pausing at the end of the day, considering together the ways you’ve been blessed, and then give thanks…

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against progress. I’m all in favor of indoor plumbing, air-conditioning, high definition television, and smartphones. I’m just saying, no matter how much comfort it brings, it’s not really “progress” if it moves us beyond relationships.