“Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete” (2 John 12).
Messages delivered through pen or text are no match for the joy-infusing power of the spoken word. Written words – letters, texts, emails – all of these are necessary forms of communication at different times for different reasons. But there is something about looking someone in the eye in real time, speaking words in the presence of another person made in the image of God, that brings joy to the communication event.
A lack of face to face communication transforms joy into discord and hurt, both detected and undetected. I wonder how much of the discord that is sown on Twitter would be avoided if the brash arrogance fueled by tweeting in isolation were removed? Or I think about the times when I have neglected the fellowship of my family in my home because my mind was occupied with responding to the seven texts my phone received since I last looked at it. I wonder how often I trade the joy-fueling face-to-face interaction of my loved ones for those little blue and green text bubbles that flash endlessly across my screens.
I wonder how much improved my relationships with others would be if I had the same resolve that the apostle John did in the verse quoted above: “Yes, I have much to text you/tweet/email you about, but I would rather not use letters on the page. I want you. I want your company. I want the exchange of smiles and hand gestures, I want the glint in your eye when you say something clever, I want to see if your face drops when I ask you how you are so I know what word to bring to you that is best, I want our conversation to end not with an emoji but an embrace and shared prayer.”
Just maybe I should take the example of that Nissan commercial and start answering texts in person. What would be the result if I showed up on their doorstep and when asked me what I was doing there, I responded, “My screen wasn’t enough. I wanted the joy of your presence. Seeing you face to face makes my joy complete and I hope that by God’s grace I may contribute to your joy as well.”
Community breeds joy. Reading the Bible together, singing together, praying together, eating together, planning together, yes, even disagreeing together – all of this contributes to our joy. Just as God has delight in Himself in the interaction of Father, Son, and Spirit, we are filled with joy when we as image bearers of the Triune God have fellowship with one another.
This is not necessarily a call to put away our technology. As I said, it has a place. Sometimes a well placed gif brings me joy. But behind every text, every email, every letter, behind every written communication should burn the desire that these mediums be gone and I can enjoy the actual presence of those I love.
So to all those I love who are reading this, I leave you with another sentiment from the end of John’s third letter: “I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.”