Monday, March 4, 2024

Distance. . .

Whether we admit it or not, we are very far removed from people in charge.  Our government, political, business, and religious leaders are largely inaccessible to us.  Sure, we have email and snail mail but we all know that many hands filter what is received on the big desks.  Besides that, such leaders are surrounded by security details designed not to let anyone into the circle.  I wonder if this lack of access has some influence over the rage in folks who resort to violence.  I also wonder if this distance has come to be normal even for the ordinary folks in the course of their regular lives.  It was not always this way.

It was said that Abraham Lincoln regularly received unscheduled visitors who had something on their chest.  When was it that the last President of the United States received drop in visitors from among the hoi paloi?  You cannot even get in most buildings in Washington without an appointment and a ticket.  I recall when my family visited the capital city of our republic and walked in and out of nearly all public buildings -- even the White House.  We walked into the offices of one of our state senators.  We talked to all sorts of people.  My brother even approached Jesse Jackson who was dining at a table next to ours in a restaurant.  That seems aeons ago now.

Now most of us treat our homes the way the security detail treats the White House.  Nobody gets through.  We do not answer our doors to strangers nor do we pick up our phones when called by numbers we do not recognize.  I understand why we do it.  I just wonder what the impact of it all is upon the psyche of the nation as a whole and each of us as individuals.  The screen has become the buffer zone between us and the world and we have all become, to a large measure, inaccessible.  The inevitable phone queue seems more designed to make us give up and send an email than to wade through the endless hurdles to finally get to a real person (although where that person may live and work might shock and surprise us).

Worse, we have come to believe the idea that God is just as inaccessible as the bigwigs around us and even as each of us.  We have presumed that God lies hidden, behind some great closed door, until we call upon Him or summon Him.  We find this distance rather convenient since it means that such a hidden God is hardly in a position to find fault with our moral choices or second guess our flawed decisions.  Distance may be troubling to us in some ways but it is also convenient when it leaves us to be who we want to be and do what we want to do -- without some deity looking over our shoulder.

Strangely, we are in the season that celebrates not the distant God who cannot be approached by the God who is near -- who has come into our world of space and time wearing the same flesh and blood we wear.  The incarnation of our Lord is above all the intrusion of the distant God into our everyday lives and into the very fabric of our being.  God is with us.  That is the promise of His name.  We cannot lose this God or forget about Him when it is convenient.  Bidden or not, this God is present.  Yet the other miracle of Christmas is that this God is come not for judgment (at least not yet) but to save.  He has come full of mercy and with grace sufficient to answer the guilt of every sin, the long dark shadow of death, and the prison of our selves.  He has come to set us free not so that we do not need Him but so that we might be free to depend upon Him and receive what He freely gives with faith and joy.  Because He is near, salvation is near and heaven nearer than when we first believed.

I fear that we have normalized our isolation to the point where there is no real comfort in the nearness of God.  Besides all of that, we sort of like telling our story our way without a God who knows the exaggerations or departures from truth.  That is, after all, the appeal of meeting God on our terms.  In the end it is a comfortless choice.  Truth can be fearful when it strips away all pretense and convenient distance but it is only truth that can bestow real comfort.  God really does know us and love us.

We all complain that nobody in the West Wing knows how real people live.  Nobody across the halls of power in Washington knows us or all that much about the shape of our lives.  They don't know the real cost of groceries or the toil of jobs we endure to support our families.  We know that the Jeff Bezos of this world have never waited for a slow hand in the self-check aisle or wondered if they could afford braces or wrestled with juggling medical procedures against high deductibles and the maze of the health care system.  Maybe it is even unreasonable to expect them to know these things.  But the shocking thing of all is that God does -- from the arrogant judgments of nosy neighbors to the rejection of a city to the betrayal of intimate friends to the innocent suffering for the guilty to the tears of grief in loss to the cold darkness of a tomb.  He knows.  Better He cares.  Best He has come to set us free from these prisons and to bring the captive home to Him.  Thanks be to God!

1 comment:

Carl Vehse said...

"I wonder if this lack of access has some influence over the rage in folks who resort to violence."

Such "folks" are typically Muslim or anti-semitic terrorists, radical leftists who want Dementiajoe to move even further to the treasonous left, Soros-paid rioters, and/or Demonicrats who lack impulse control. Sometimes, those folks are just DeepStaters intimidating American citizens or infiltrating peaceful conservative groups.