This was originally written on December 8th. It’s just taken a little while to get it posted this month:
Being the person who has their phone and internet turned off for not paying the bill, is not a part of my normal self image. In fact, I typically see myself as a good credit rating, bills-paid-on-time sort of person. So Friday when our phone suddenly stopped making outbound calls (but continued to recieve calls) I figured that our prodigal Telkom was striking again. That may require a bit of clarification. Suffice to say that we’ve had all sorts of problems with Telkom, from failed/sub-standard hardware, to service outages, to inexplicable billing. Friday morning, when the phone stopped, I thought we’d give it a bit of time and see if things resolved themselves. This was an easy decision since I don’t really like talking on the phone much. Saturday morning when the internet went out, I got a little more uncomfortable. But I figured that was just confirmation the line was messed up some where and I assumed they were working on it. However, by Sunday, when none of our neighbors were having problems and we were still without service, I picked up the phone — the cell phone — to call Telkom.
I’m not a fan of making phone calls. I don’t know why, but I have an almost irrational fear of it. Making them in German is even more scary. Often, when conversing in German, my fears are realized, and I can’t understand a word the person on the other end of the phone is saying. However, this phone conversation went fairly smoothly, and after a few attempts the Telkom representative made it clear to me that they had not received our last payment.
Virtually everything here in German is handled via electronic funds transfer. When you recieve a bill, it comes with a little yellow slip you fill out to have the funds transfered, or you can go online and transfer the funds directly from the bank. These transfers are not instant, however. They usually take 24 hours. You probably see where this is going. We’d payed the bill, but because it’s been a very challenging season for us financially, we’d paid it at the last minute. Some hiccup in the process meant that Telkom didn’t process it before the weekend, and so they shut off our service. It took until Tuesday to get our service restored.
This came at an interesting time for me, though. I don’t know if it’s a stage of culture shock, or just a lot of stress, but I’ve been finding it more difficult to really make a connection with God. I often feel like He’s terminated my service, and I don’t know why. It seems arbitrary and unfair. But when I’m really honest, I realize that my sense of disconnection isn’t coming from God, but rather it’s the result of my own actions. I rush through my devotional and prayer time to get on to “more important” things. I get angry when He leads me to some struggle or trial that’s meant to shape me into a better man, instead of leading me to the prosperity and ease I desire. The communications disconnect isn’t really God’s doing at all. It’s my own, just like our service getting interrupted because we paid the bill too late. Unlike Telkom, though, God doesn’t punatively disconnect my service, He’s always tuned in. I just can’t hear Him when I drown out his voice with my own noise.