Persistence

The phone rang this morning.  I suppose that is not really an accurate statement, is it?  I don’t own a phone that has a bell in it anymore.  Everything is all speakers and circuit boards nowadays, with no moving parts–none, that is, except the dummy who picks up the receiver.  There is no vibrating clapper, no dome-shaped metal bell, between which the clapper alternates, striking first one then the other in rapid repetition.

I heard the high-pitched electronic tone with a quaver in its voice–almost like the high “C” note held down on a cheap electric keyboard with the vibrato effect sped up to maximum–and I found myself wishing for the telephones of my youth.  They were simple things, just a dial, with the aforementioned bell and a speaker for an earpiece, along with a microphone mounted where you spoke.  No batteries, no circuit boards, no buttons to push.

I miss those days.

As I daydreamed, the plastic box jangled again and, looking at the screen on the phone, I realized it was a salesman with whom I did not wish to speak.  Immediately, I concluded that I don’t miss the old days as much as I thought.

With the old phone, I would have answered the call, not having been forewarned of the caller’s identity. Then, stuck on the phone for an uncomfortable period of time (no matter how long or short the call was), I would be murmuring words like, “Why yes, I got the samples you mailed…No, I don’t want a gross of those ear plugs right now…Certainly, I understand you only want to help out my business…No, no–call back anytime…I’m sure I’ll need some of them eventually.”

As I stood there, gazing at the caller ID, the call went to the answering system.

Mere moments passed and the jangle began again.  It was the same salesman.  After a few repetitions of the noise, the answering system kicked in again and I relaxed.  It was a short-lived respite.  After five such episodes, the phone finally fell silent.

Within moments, I heard the familiar doorbell-like double tone of an email arriving.  Checking my desktop computer, I saw the same salesman’s name in the from line.  Sighing in frustration, I read the message.

“I’ve been trying to reach you.” his note began.  “I have an important offer which you’ll want to take advantage of right away!  Call me as soon as you get this email!”

This time, the sigh became a groan.  My finger found the delete button.

_____________

You’re laughing at me, aren’t you?  Perhaps, the recitation of my woes has brought back the memory of a certain telemarketer who won’t stop calling at supper time.  Maybe you have a neighbor who bothers you constantly, borrowing tools and asking for your help at inopportune times.  You sympathize, but you are enjoying my discomfort.

I’m wondering though, if, in our mutual disregard for the hapless salesman, we may actually begin to feel a sense of kinship, almost a memory of shared experiences, with him.

Have we ever tried to get through repeatedly, to someone who really needed what we had to offer, only to be ignored every time?  I’m not talking about selling some gimmicky doo-dad or some snake-oil remedy for stomach problems; certainly not suggesting that we were trying to take advantage of the person.  I’m just remembering times when I’ve tried to help people in my life who didn’t seem to want my help.  I called.  I left messages.  I even sent things in the mail.

No response.  Nothing.  

I felt like the stand-up comedian who has told a bad joke and, hearing no laughter from his audience, taps the microphone in front of him, asking sarcastically, “Is anybody out there?  Is this thing on?”

The mind moves on, past interpersonal relationships, to deeper matters.  Perhaps, there have been times when, desperate for answers, we approached God with our prayers.  Were there times when He seemed so distant, so unresponsive, that we could almost believe He didn’t exist at all?

We wouldn’t have been alone in that conclusion.

I laughed a bit as I drew this parallel in my mind, remembering that in times gone by, I thought God used to answer prayers much easier than he does today.  The silly thought hit me that perhaps, heaven’s phone system was once like our old one, where He had no choice but to answer my call, wanting to be sure He didn’t miss another, more important message from someone more worthy.  Now with caller ID on the celestial phone system, my calls are bypassed, sent to voice mail, to be dealt with at some other time.

Joking aside, I’m happy to know that the line to our Provider is still open.  We haven’t annoyed Him with too many prank calls; haven’t worn out our welcome by asking for too many things.  Jesus assured his followers of that, as He taught, “Everything you ask for, believing that it will happen, will be yours.”

That hasn’t changed with the advent of better technology.  The line is still clear, with no interference to block the reception.

I think I’ll try that friend again, too.  This could be the time he picks up to talk to me.

If not, an email might work.  My salesman friend might have had the right idea, after all.

“He will listen to the prayers of the destitute.  He will not reject their pleas.”
(Psalm 102:17 ~ NLT)

“A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success.”
(Elbert Hubbard ~ American writer/philosopher ~ 1856-1915)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.

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