Life without pictures or sound

3/10/2006

"Be still and know that I am God." —Psalm 46:10

By BISHOP ROBERT E. HAYES JR.

The snow and ice that invaded Oklahoma on a recent weekend really wreaked havoc in a lot of our churches. A great number of people couldn’t get to church because of the poor traveling conditions, and it’s likely those who did manage to get to church hoped the preacher would do a "mini" service and sermon before the weather got any worse.

Have you ever conducted a program while all the other heads in the room were turned toward the windows, watching nature? It can be a bit distracting, to say the least.

I bring up the subject of recent icy conditions because the weather created something of a disaster in the Hayes household. Only now are we beginning to recover from it.

What happened will forever be recalled in our family clan as the worst thing that could occur. When I tell you what took place, you’ll never want it to strike you as it did us.

OUR CABLE WENT OUT.

That’s right; because of a falling tree limb or ice on the line, we lost our TV signal from the cable/satellite.

There we were, amid a perfectly delightful afternoon for staying indoors and enjoying the benefits of being secluded by inclement weather, when the screens on all our television sets went blank. Kaput! Zilch!

No picture. No sound. Every knob and button on the remote control were useless.

After several minutes of trying to "revive" the system, to at least get a picture, I gave up.

Some of you are probably thinking: So what? Losing your signal from the satellite isn’t the end of the world.

Perhaps you don’t understand. On that afternoon, the National Basketball Association’s All-Star game was airing. Yao Ming, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal, and a host of other great athletes were ready to take the court—and all we had were blank screens.

Oh, woe! Why us, Lord? Why couldn’t you let the cable go out in the middle of the night, when no one was watching TV?

When you add to my misery the anxiety of a son who is now as frantic as I am about missing favored shows, you begin to understand our reaction. The realization of our situation begins to sink in—no sports, no news, no place to go because of the conditions outside—and that adds up to desperation.

No help

The only thing to do was to call our cable company, report what happened, and ask how soon repairs could be made.

After working our way through the dreaded automated menu to reach a real person, we discovered we had experienced an "isolated" incident—meaning it would be at least two days before someone would arrive to fix it.

Oh, say it isn’t so! Two days? We might be dead by then—or at each other’s throats, at least. We could only accept the reality—and wonder how we were going to make it through the terrible -situation.

And then it happened.

In the void left by no TV picture or sound, we started talking to each other, and this sort of talking was new and different.

Much to our surprise

I’d like to share with you what I learned the day the cable went out.

For instance, we could actually hear one another.

We had grown accustomed to trying to "speak over" the sound from the television. That weekend, we realized we could speak in soft, audible tones, and we would still be understood—and, most importantly, heard.

At first we talked about how much we missed the cable connection. Then our discussions broadened to all sorts of subjects. We talked about topics we long had wanted to discuss. We shared ideas on the Bible and other books, movies, and a host of other subjects.

The more we talked, the more we enjoyed talking, and as the hours went by, we really got closer to one another. We learned more about each other’s hopes and dreams, and we even had time to speak of our anxieties. It turned out to be a wonderful experience.

Is this what God wants?

I discovered that, when there is no sound or picture, you make your own. It took a broken television cable for us to make those sounds of laughter, fellowship, and togetherness.

Maybe God wants us to remove—if only temporarily—those things that distract, separate, and divide us.

Maybe God is showing us that we can find peace with each other and within ourselves by stepping away from the noise and confusion of the day.

In this season of Lent, let’s pause in our hectic lives to listen for the message to us. You can only hear that message in the quiet of God’s presence, by being still long enough to know that God is asking something of you as you make your way to Easter.

This is what the Psalmist meant when he wrote, "Be still and know that I am God."

I thank God for enabling me and my family to experience life in the absence of cable TV. This one act brought us closer to one another and, more importantly, closer to God.

Now, even though the cable connection is fixed, we know something wonderful awaits us when the television is off. Try it. You may find out what God has been trying to say to you for a long, long time.


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