There are many reasons that online connections feel different than being in the same physical space. For one thing, when we meet others online, we meet them two-dimensionally. This is all that our computers, tablets, and phones allow for. We only see one another on screens as having height and width, but never depth. I, for one, have felt that lack of depth with my colleagues, and I also felt the difference it made to finally meet in the same physical space again, almost immediately. Additionally, it takes a great amount of intentionality to meet online. Unlike running into someone at the grocery store, at a local high school game, or even at the office, planning to meet with others online takes a lot more effort than simply running into somebody around town. This usually has meant that our online conversations have been much more focused and serious than the small talk that we usually gab about when we meet in the same physical space. It can make a group’s conversation feel more two-dimensional, as well. When our gatherings are all planned, it can feel like we constantly need to stay on topic in how we speak with one another, never straying to talking about how we are doing or other chit-chat like that.
What I think was the biggest difference about finally being able to meet in-person once again was, in the end, all the small stuff. In conversation, it was priceless to share in small talk about where new pastors in the synod have come from and what old friends have been up to since we last met face to face. In relationship, we finally had another opportunity to go fishing, have our kids play together, and enjoy the pool in one another’s presence. It is the little things of our lives that really bring us close to each other, and the more little things we are able to commiserate with friends over, the closer we are able to be.
This experience has led me to realize that God knows us fully through the little things, too. We do not only come to know God through the largesse of the cosmos or the massive expanse of the history of the universe. We also know our Lord through the small moments of encountering God moving in our lives on a daily basis. Likewise, God does not solely know us by our careers, our school transcripts, our reputations, our legacies, or other achievements in the material world, but also by our deepest selves from the inside out. God knows us by our small passions and prayers, our unique interests, our fears, our small joys and pleasures, and everything in between. God knows us and loves us from the littlest parts of ourselves on up to the greatest bits of who we are. There is no part of us that is too small to save, and part of the grand wonder of Christ’s salvation is that the most miniscule, personal parts of ourselves are saved first so that big things may follow.