Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How well do we know each other?

This week I responded to a prompt sent by a friend on "Facebook." The idea was to quickly produce a list containing 25 fairly random facts about myself (details that other people probably do not know) and then to circulate the list, with the prompt, thereby contributing to the development of on-line community.

So I quickly wrote up my list - I'll copy it below this blog entry - and sent it around. Then I read a few that other people has posted.

It occurred to me that more honest self-revelation was taking place in this "virtual" community than often happens at church, between colleagues at work, or even around most family dinner tables. What is it about an electronic list that gives people more confidence to be honest about themselves?

Then I realized this beautiful irony. It's the anonymity of the Internet that makes people willing to talk more openly. Humanity has this desire to know and be known, but we run from it at the same time as we reach out.

So I took my list and I read it aloud to my wife, Rebekah. It was a great starting point for a deeper conversation. I'm going to read my list at my small-group Bible-study tonight, then encourage my friends to make a similar "declaration" and share it with their spouse over coffee or a cup of hot tea.

When my daughter, Naomi, was dating Craig long-distance (Florida-Alaska), they went through a list of questions designed as conversation-starters for small-groups. They got to know each other better over hours of in-depth phone conversation than had they not been divided by a continent and three time-zones.

How many of our families would be infinitely healthier just by turning off the television during meals and actually talking? Spouse... children... friends.

Just something to think about. My "facebook" list is pasted below.

25 things
Mon 8:31pm |
  1. I believe my actual life is better than most people's "bucket lists."
  2. In high school I ran the second fastest 100 meters in the SE of England.
  3. My definition of "middle aged" is "half gone"; I'm not middle aged.
  4. I haven't been old in a long time.
  5. My favorite writers are Graham Greene, Philip Yancey, Don Miller and the apostle Paul.
  6. I didn't believe I was smart enough to go to college - I eventually graduated summa cum laude.
  7. When I was 19 I spent three months touring Europe with a bus-load of fundamental Christians...
  8. ... if you want to know what happened then you'll have to read my next book...
  9. ...All I'm saying is it wasn't always pretty.
  10. If someone wrote my obituary today I'd want it to read: "Derek Maul: child of God; friend of Jesus; faithful husband; loving father; author & storyteller; joyful member of the community of faith..."
  11. Some of the things remaining on my "bucket list"... See my column syndicated; speak at a college graduation; own a convertible; do a three-month road trip coast to coast with Rebekah; be on the New York Times bestseller list; play Pebble Beach; eat dinner with a sitting president; give a million dollars to charity in one year...
  12. I smuggled Bibles into Russia back in 1974.
  13. Back in high school I once held the record for most runs scored in a "20-over" cricket match.
  14. A British newspaper described me as "brilliant" several years before the term became a UK cliché.
  15. London is still my favorite city in the world; San Fransisco, Portland, Seattle, and Tucson are close. Tampa is not bad.
  16. Cities I wouldn't mind living in: Tallahassee; Atlanta; Tuscon; San Fransisco; Portland; Columbia, SC; Asheville....
  17. I really and honestly DO believe Rebekah Maul is the best preacher I've ever heard.
  18. I often listen to John Ortberg or Rob Bell sermons on my ipod while walking the dog.
  19. My children - Andrew and Naomi - have turned out to be two of the most wonderful young adults this world has ever known.
  20. My favorite book in the Bible is the Gospel of John.
  21. My favorite hymn is "Great is thy faithfulness"...
  22. ... Because it's true.
  23. Sometimes - while I'm walking the dog on a cool evening and thinking about my family and my church and my job and this world - I feel so good about being alive that I almost cry.
  24. I'd like to own an archtop guitar and learn to play some jazz.
  25. My favorite food is Italian....

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