I can’t see the blood as he texts, “I’m OK.”
A few days ago, Mike posted on the science-fictiony wonders of technology. He wrote how technology that erases the nonverbal cues will be of enormous aid to his autistic son. And it’s true! Technology has helped in incredible ways. I’ve worked with families with autistic children in my professional life before I became a pastor. I’m familiar with the struggles families and individuals have as they live as autists in a world of neurotypicals.
I can’t hear the shaking of his voice as he texts, “I’m fine.”
The same technology that helps him has hurt my personal ministry, and by anecdote (if not research) it has hurt others as well.
I can’t see how truthful he is as he says, “I haven’t hurt myself.”
Technology has provided a barrier for my ministry, particularly with “googlers” – with those who grew up with the technology. I try to communicate in the preferred method. If someone likes getting a phone call, I call. If someone prefers Facebook, I Facebook. If someone prefers text, I text. I also do this because I understand that when you contact someone through a method they don’t like, they simply don’t respond.
Does he have cuts on his arms?
A young woman who is a member of my congregation ignores my texts asking how she’s doing. I haven’t seen her in over a month after doing some very intense counseling. Where is she now? She’s removed herself from all contact. I can no longer track her down… because she’s chosen to ignore my texts. The technology has frustrated me.
Does the blood pool on his skin?
Several people in my circle have expressed concern for a young man who has actively avoided me and pretty much anything of church for a while. And tonight I got a call from a parent: he’s been sending very direct signals. I need to step in. And the only contact method I can pursue right now: The text.
I can’t see him. I can’t hear him.
I won’t get into the reasons why I can’t see him face to face. But as we text… he completely shuts down. And I can’t even read his nonverbal to find out why he’s shutting down. Is it depression? Fear? Anger? I can’t see his wrists. Are there cuts there already? I can’t assess the situation at all. The technology has frustrated me.
What pain in his heart moves his hands?
These two teens use the technology to hide. If it weren’t for the technology, I’m sure they’d find some other excuse. Sinful humans are really good at that. But right now, I’m left with some vague messages or knowing that I’m being ignored.
Technology has greatly aided me. I can log onto Facebook and see what’s going on in so many lives in my congregation. I use a Bluetooth to talk to people during the worship service. I get support from pastors around the nation and the world. I couldn’t do these things without that technology.
But sinful human beings… we never make anything perfect, do we?
And I don’t know what demon he struggles with tonight… or if he even struggles at all. I don’t know if he’s given in to temptation… because he’s stopped texting me back. Is it because he’s ignoring me? Because he’s simply gone to sleep? Or is it because he has chosen to end his life?
What do I do, simply because a text goes unanswered?