From FOMO to hello to hereDecember 11, 2019
Do you, like me, often want to be somewhere else? It’s not that I’m unhappy where I am, it’s just that in a world filled with many options and possibilities – well, why wouldn’t you explore them all? Those younger than me tell me it’s FOMO, aka fear of missing out.
Here’s the irony. FOMO can actually see you missing out, and get you to overlook what you already have. Recently I’ve been reading Padraig O’Tuama’s book In the Shelter. O’Tuama is the leader of the Corrymeela community in Northern Ireland, and brings a refreshing and hopeful perspective to Christian spirituality. He suggests we learn to say “hello to here”, and elaborates by telling the story of a remote tribe in Papua New Guinea who have no word for hello, and so greet newcomers with the words, “You are here” to which the expected response is, “Yes I am”. Ideally we can not only reply “Yes I am” but embrace it more fully and say, “Hello to here”.
Pause for a while and think how richly suggestive this greeting is.
I am here, and that may be a cause for joy, sadness or indifference, but it is where I am. And if it is where I am, and if I must offer everything to God, I offer this to God.
At times this is easier than others. We might hear some joyful news… You’ve been promoted. What will it mean to stop and hear the words” “You are here” and to reply, “Yes I am.” If I experience God as speaking the words, “You are here” they come with particular challenge. How will I live in the light of the new position I find myself in? In what way will I honour God through it?
At times the greeting is more challenging. Perhaps our marriage has been going through a difficult season, one screaming match after another. Last night was particularly bad. And then you hear the words: “You are here” and are invited to reply, “Yes I am” and then to discover what it might mean to say “Hello to here”. It is not about running from where we are, but embracing the season, whatever it is, and being willing to say, “Hello to here” and to say this with a gentle trust that God has not abandoned us, but can be found even here.
Try another scenario. You are an immigrant, newly arrived in your new country. You arrived with such high hopes, but my the loneliness you now feel. And nothing is going to plan. Your sense of loss at all you have left behind is haunting. “You are here.” Will you find the courage to say, “Yes I am” and perhaps go yet further and say, “Hello to here” – for God is here.
I am here, but perhaps I have been so longing to be somewhere else that I haven’t noticed the wonder and joy of here. I might not have fully noticed the richness of the people who are with me now. The day may come when they are not here or I am not here, and that may cause me or them, great sadness. So “Hello to here”. It is not a place to run from nor a place to scorn. It will not be where I am forever located, so while it is here let me explore in what way God intends it to be a gift to me and to those in my orbit – for all of life is gift, even though some gifts take decades to spot.
And to be sure, if I deeply say “Hello to here”, fear of missing out can quietly take a back seat.