As many of you know, I was an attorney for Southern Bell, one of the “Baby Bells” from the break-up of AT&T. I used my background to help cajole busy service personnel to get memorable telephone numbers for New Life Church (462.0202), fax line (462.0505) and even for our home (485.1333). With our family having an increased reliance on cell phones, we gave up our land line. Many people have joined us in this cellular revolution.
Cell phones have the wonderful feature of hosting a “contacts” directory. This feature means that over time your contact list will probably grow. As I transitioned from being a local church pastor to being President of Calvin Theological Seminary, I confess that I have not deleted any of my contacts. The numbers from my past and numbers of my former parishioners still remain with me. I even have the phone numbers of parishioners who have died.
Maybe you have faced the same moment of looking at a number and remembering the person and some of their story. You pause and for a moment you think – “I should probably just delete this number”. But I have not because the number has caused a memory and has again linked me to that person.
Even for a person who died, it seems that the moment of deleting their phone number is one that does not have enough gravitas or pastoral weight to allow me to delete. What we need (or some of us need) is a liturgy that provides the pastoral framework to “release” the number and allow a person to delete the contact.
On the other hand, maybe in a world that seems to minimize commitment, the act of keeping the number is a spiritual discipline. Maybe in a rushing world, the opportunity to pause and remember is one that should be encouraged. So instead of deleting, I sometimes take the time to remember and pray.
When Jesus noted that our Heavenly Father knows the number of hairs on our head, he was affirming that we are more than a number. When I don’t delete a cell phone number, I am affirming that the person connected to the number was and is more to me than a number as well.