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A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

Call Waiting

September 10th, 2003

“Can you hold a second, please? Someone is beeping in.”

We phrase it in the form of a question, but we aren’t asking. We’re telling. I silently wondered how he would respond if I said, “No, I can’t hold. “

“I’m back. Sorry. That was my wife again.” His wife had beeped in four times during a ten minute phone call. It was difficult for me to relay the information he had requested with her interrupting every 2.5 minutes.

I don’t have room to be upset. I have Call Waiting on my phone at home. My work phone has so many lines it doesn’t wait for anyone. But at home I have Call Waiting. And I don’t like it.

There remains a small remnant of people in the country who have a basic telephone. My parents are among them. In 2003 it’s nostalgic to have a phone whose only functions are to make and receive calls one at a time. When I call my parents and they answer, I obviously know they are home. When they don’t answer, I know they aren’t home. If I get a busy signal, I know they are talking to someone else. Simple. Calling to a basic phone is like a game of checkers. There are only three moves: move, jump, king me.

Add Call Waiting, Caller ID, and Voice Mail and you’re playing a game of telephone chess. The number of possible moves increases significantly. If I call someone and there is no answer, they might not be at home. But I can’t be sure. They may be staring at the Caller ID saying, “I don’t want to talk to Todd.” If the call goes to Voice Mail, they may not be at home. But I can’t be sure. They might be home screening their calls, allowing their 2.4 gigahertz cordless to take my message so they can review it before deciding on whether or not it merits immediate attention. If I call and they answer, it may mean they want to talk to me. But I can’t be sure. They may have picked up the phone too quickly before the Caller ID revealed my identity.

Considering all the possible scenarios makes a busy signal feel downright friendly.

When I first got Caller ID and Voice Mail I thought it would be a good tool for filtering telemarketing calls. One day I came home and reviewed the list of incoming calls while I’d been away at work. There were several “Anonymous” and “Unavailable” calls on the Caller ID. Before buying into the new and improved telecom technology, wondering how many calls I missed while I was out didn’t cost me anything. Now I’m paying $5 a month to wonder who didn’t leave a message.

Caller ID is supposed to help you screen your calls. If you’re talking with someone on the phone and get beeped by Call Waiting, Caller ID’s job is to flash the incoming number so you can decide which person you want to speak with more. Ignore the beep and the call goes to Voice Mail, the third member of the telecom triumvirate. Voice Mail takes the message and the caller is none the wiser.

Recently my Voice Mail went Benedict Arnold on me. Call me now when I’m on the phone and you’ll hear, “The party you are calling is on the phone.” It may as well say, “The party you are calling has seen your incoming number and deemed you unworthy of the flash button. If your self-esteem can bear this blatant snub, leave a message at the tone.”

In the names of efficiency and convenience we’ve created many ways to contact one another. Answering machines, pagers, fax machines, cell phones, email, text messaging and, if we’re lucky, the old fashioned telephone call. Yet after you’ve left messages on two phones, paged, faxed, emailed and text messages and don’t get a response, then what?

Several thousand years ago King David described our “direct connect” access to God. In Psalm 145:18 he writes, “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.” We don’t often think about having God’s listening ear anytime we desire it. Yet we have it.

And God doesn’t listen to find fault with us or to be condescending like some know-it-all Tech Support person who makes you feel dumber that you did before you dialed. Earlier in Psalm 145, King David describes God as “Gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in loving kindness. The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works.” In short, God genuinely concerns Himself with everything that concerns you. Because He loves you.

God goes two better than my parents basic telephone. When we call, He answers. No busy signal. No ringing forever because He isn’t home. We call, He answers. That’s His promise. His solution to our questions, concerns or worries may not be instant. But His response is. He always answers and He always listens.

On the first ring.