10/1/18 - Pastor Young
There's a Spanish saying that I heard recently, which, when translated literally, means "eyes that do not see, heart that does not feel" (ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente). An English idiom that would fit the meaning here is "out of sight, out of mind".
Ironically, my two years of Spanish classes have been completely pushed out of my mind due to lack of use, but there's a reason this saying is special to me. I bring up this saying because of something that happened to me on social media.
Recently, I saw a photo of a friend that I hadn't seen in years. We were best friends throughout our middle school years, and we hung out almost every single day after school, but this stopped in year 9, as I ended up moving to the other side of the earth.
We wrote a few e-mails to each other after I moved, but it just wasn't the same as when we would meet face-to-face and spend time together. Soon, we fell out of touch, and I went on living my life. My eyes no longer saw him, so my heart did not feel. Out of sight, out of mind.
Years later, we reconnected through Facebook. A strange thought entered my head when I saw his photo, like, hey, I know this guy, and we were actually really close before. I don't know if you've had an experience like this (if you don't have social media at all, think of the times when you may have bumped into someone unexpectedly after years of not seeing them), but here was someone I hadn't thought about in years!
We chatted excitedly, talking about everything that had happened since we last spoke. I suddenly remembered why we had been best friends. We got along so well!
But it didn't last—once again, we stopped catching up. Maybe it was the time difference, or maybe we had simply grown apart.
An interesting theory put forward by British anthropologist Robin Dunbar is that we actually have a particular number of people we can have meaningful relationships with at any given time. Once we reach this number, we struggle to make meaningful connections with people. "The figure of 150 seems to represent the maximum number of individuals with whom we can have a genuinely social relationship, the kind of relationship that goes with knowing who they are and how they relate to us," Dunbar theorises. "Putting it another way, it's the number of people you would not feel embarrassed about joining uninvited for a drink if you happened to bump into them in a bar."
In other words, we seem to have a limit to the number of relationships of a certain standard that we are able to maintain. This possibly (remembering that this is a theory) explains the reason behind "out of sight, out of mind".
On Sunday, Andrew talked about the culture of the day in Esther 2:19-3:15, particularly with reference to Mordecai, who seems to have taken on the culture of the Persian empire around him for the most part. In fact, Mordecai wants to keep his (and Esther's) background a secret from everyone. This meant putting away the sacred texts and refraining from celebrating Jewish feasts. It's no wonder God's name isn't mentioned a single time in the book of Esther—neither of the principal Jewish characters (God's people!) seem interested in thinking about Him, let alone keeping His commandments!
God has very much been forgotten. You could say that Mordecai has "eyes that do not see," and thus he has a "heart that does not feel". It all seems like a hopeless situation, as the Author of hope Himself has been pushed out of mind.
If I'm honest, I think the reason that I forgot about my best friend from middle school was that I no longer had anything to gain from him. Tim Keller points out this commodification of relationships, saying, "Today we stay connected to people only as long as they are meeting our particular needs at an acceptable cost to us". My middle school friendship revolved around having fun together, through exploring or playing games or reading comics. The distance created by my intercontinental move was too great a cost to overcome for the sake of a few minutes of chatting online.
Perhaps Mordecai has made a similar assessment of God in the book of Esther. After all, the Jews had been exiled from their land by the Babylonians, before the Persians took over. God no longer seems "profitable".
Is this also what lies beneath the surface of our own roller coaster relationships with God? When things don't go the way we want, are we tempted to believe that "profitability" in this relationship has dried up? Who's easier to put "out of sight" than an invisible God?
It is in these moments of weakness that we must recall the words of William Cowper's hymn:
Ye fearful saints fresh courage take, the clouds that you must dread,
are big with mercy and will break in blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace;
behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour;
the bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower.
It's often hard to see the hand of God in our lives. Mordecai could attest to this—he had saved the king's life, with no reward! And now, there was a plan to wipe out his entire race.
But time and time again, throughout the book of Esther, we are invited by the writer to see what the unseen God is doing to save His people. The many fortuitous coincidences that take place have the fingerprints of God all over them. He is faithful. And like in the book of Esther, when we ourselves forget God in the busy day-to-day of our lives, or we push Him "out of mind", He shows Himself to be faithful.
God has not forgotten us—never!—and He is constantly at work in our lives, despite our inability to see Him or acknowledge Him. When we have placed 150 people or priorities above Him, He remains committed to us. We forget that the very breath we draw to question Him is the life that is breathed into us by our Father.
If you find that you are embattled as you seek to maintain a relationship with God, pray and ask Him for help with your faith. Ask Him to speak to you through the Bible, to hear your pleas in prayer, and to work in the community that you are a part of here at Suburban. Then do the things that cause you to come in contact with Him more often, so that you may place Him firmly at the top of the 150: attend church services, belong to a Gospel Community, and trust that He works to help your faith.
Ask Him for eyes that see, and a heart that feels.