I’m not paranoid, but sometimes I just know people are listening. The feeling started with the new cell phone I carry in a wallet case.
There are a few problems with this case. First, people tend to stare when you become conversant with your wallet. Second, it’s got so many buttons that I will inadvertently hit the speed dial or idiot dial. Not sure which, but in cell phone parlance, they’re called pocket calls.
That’s a problem — especially when my children hear me ordering a hamburger for lunch. Now they want to know why dad gets burgers and they get bologna.
My wife is not exempt from these extemporaneous calls either. Last week, while lost in a new city, I woke her with my sarcastic driving commentary.
“That’s great, just great!” she heard me exclaim. “The directions say west. Which way is west?”
Yet by far, the worst situation happened a few months back when my friend, Steve Brown, called asking whether I was OK.
“Yeah, Steve, I’m OK. Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Well,” he said, “I got a phone call from you last night. At first I didn’t recognize your voice.” He paused. “Are you upset over your son’s grades?”
The blood drained from my face recalling the previous night’s conversation in which Steve obviously heard me giving my son a math lesson.
“Bad grades will equal no graduation. No graduation equals no job. No job,” I told him, “equals life under a freeway overpass!”
It was a bad Dr. Laura impression and not my best parenting. Maybe, pretty near my worst.
As my friend expressed his concern for me, I could only feel shame at being caught using a bully pulpit.
The whole thing made me think how often we warn our children, “God sees and hears everything you do.” Problem is that this warning lacks any meaningful expression of God’s relationship to us. It makes God sound like Santa with a naughty or nice list — or at least a high-tech voyeur.
This view of God often can persist into our adult world conflicts. “That’s OK,” we’ll say of a co-worker, “God knows what she did.” The implication is if we can’t get our lick in, we can count on God to dispense eternal justice.
I’m not so sure God works that way. God’s not some kind of Sherlock Holmes with a magnifying glass held over our latest sin.
Actually, God’s more like Steve Brown. OK, God isn’t named Steve. (Steve’s wife will definitely tell you Steve is no god.) But what I’m saying is God consistently does the type of thing Steve did.
Steve called wanting to help. While his call was meant in some way to hold me accountable, his main purpose was to help restore a relationship that sounded broken to him. He called because he still thinks I’m a good guy who still has the ability to be a decent father.
Yes, God sees and hears us, but not because God keeps a scorecard. It’s because God wants to keep us in the relationship.
The truth is, I was the one in real need of a math lesson. As my friend, Tamara Chin, likes to say, “In God’s math, one plus one equals something greater than just two. It’s a relationship that helps us co-create a wholeness with God that would not otherwise exist.”
Well, my son’s grades are climbing, but not so much because of my speech. Likely more because of a phone call from God, urr, I mean Steve.