Sometimes when I’m sitting at my computer, my 3-year-old daughter, Mary, climbs onto my lap. Her purpose is not to sit on my lap but to position herself between me and the computer.
Mary knows that, sometimes, even though I’m talking to her, I’m not really attending to her. On occasion she has physically turned my face toward her as I punch a final keystroke. She knows that where my face is turned is where my attention is. I think she is onto something.
The Aaronic blessing (Num. 6:22-27) connects the turning of God’s face toward us with God’s blessing. Where God’s face shines is the place of well-being, of shalom. When Jesus faces Jerusalem before his crucifixion, he weeps (Luke 19:41). Jerusalem is the locus of his passion and compassion. Jesus’ face is turned where his heart is turned.
I think that holds true for all of us. What we face receives our blessing, our compassion, our passion. It’s not only about attention, but about the position of our hearts. That’s what my little girl is onto.
The media-saturated Generation M has been getting press lately. People are becoming concerned about the cognitive and social implications of our society being so technologically “wired”—especially for youths. Many of us disconnect in order to stay connected. We interrupt conversations to receive cell phone calls. We interrupt our work and homework to IM, then suspend our IMing to take calls. During meetings we respond to e-mail and check our calendars while someone across the table earnestly speaks. Our families may be in the same room but worlds apart on any given evening.
I wonder about the spiritual implications—even for relatively low-tech people such as myself. Are we gradually cutting ourselves off from the blessing that comes with being face-to-face with another human being and from being face-to-face with God? Is there a withering? A dying of compassion and even passion? Have we come to the point where we don’t even know what we’re missing?
I don’t know the answer. Maybe there are compensations. But maybe we also need to ask ourselves, “Where is my face turned?” Where is our blessing, our potential for blessing, directed? When we’re with others, are we really present? And do we situate ourselves in such a way that we can freely receive blessing? Do we urge others to face God and to be available for God’s blessing?
Perhaps we’ll find we’re onto something. ¦