“But I will rebuke you and accuse you to your face.”
The rhythm of most of our lives would alter completely without e-mail. Ten summers ago I blogged for the first time, just to see what it was like. I kept it up for a while, then quit because I didn’t really get it, still don’t really, even though six months later I started in again and haven’t quit since—just about every morning.
Blogs and e-mails and tweets are staples of our lives, our source for news, even (sometimes) the source of our most blessed fellowship. That social media has altered the way we communicate is unarguable. In many ways, it’s changed everything but human nature. Because it hasn't, I suppose, it’s also bred its horrors.
A couple years ago my colleagues and I got a short note from our Dean, our boss, exhorting us to use different printers because the big printer copied at a lower rate than the one many of us were using. I don’t know if I’d just got up on the wrong side of the bed or what, but I picked up a tone that made me breathe fire. I thought he was being schoolmarmish, and I resented being talked down to.
So I sent him an e-mail, blistering him.
No one else among my colleagues even mentioned the e-mail, but I got all huffy about it and my boss had to field my anger.
President Obama signed himself up on Twitter last week, let out something totally innocuous for his first tweet, then got lambasted with racial slurs, enough to make him—and others, including the Secret Service, stand up and take notice.
Every hour of the day this technology doles out blessings and sin—wrath, in particular. If I don’t practice some restraint, e-mail makes me (I won’t speak for others) a vastly more public sinner because I can get away with it. I don't have to face my wrath, just rattle some keys and throw flame. Whack 'em from down here in the basement and never have to look anybody in the face. Real drone warfare.
Three decades ago already, a man died, a man who lived a day’s travel from here. I’ll never see him again in this world, but even the memory of his face derides. I was a boy—twelve maybe—when the cigarettes behind the counter at the grocery store started looking good to me and my friends. We stole ‘em quite regularly because the grocery store owner allowed kids back of the counter to pick out candy from a broad shelf right beneath the cigarettes.
I got caught—well, we got caught--when someone’s little sister got mad and ratted.
My father made me go back to the grocery store man, give him money (I had to estimate how many packs I’d stolen), and explain and apologize. He was sweet and loving and forgiving, as I remember, in great part because he was by nature a sweet, loving, and forgiving man.
Seriously, in his presence I felt guilty for years afterward. Even today, even though he’s long gone, I don’t remember him for anything but being the recipient of my humiliating public confession, even though he was as forgiving as anyone could be. There I stood, before him, handing him fifty cent pieces, my father behind me. When I recount that moment, guilt still exudes from every last pour of my soul.
Even though there’s a lot to fear in Psalm 50, the scariest line, I think, is this one. God says his rebuke won’t come by way of my in-box. He won’t sent some angelic mercenaries or allow me to read the bad news somewhere between the pages of a bible. “I will rebuke you and accuse you face to face,” he says, this God who once told one of
great leaders that he, Moses, wasn’t worthy of much more than a glimpse of his
Face to face, he says. Memorably. Unforgettably.