in the loop

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when you’re listening to a singer and suddenly you hear a really loud, high-pitched screech from the speakers, either you’re at a screamo concert or you just heard feedback.

feedback (are you listening, aspiring vocalists?) happens when sound coming out of the speakers goes back in to the microphone.  a loop is created.  the sound going back into the microphone is amplified and sent back out the speakers and – again – back into the microphone.  feedback in a live-audio situation is considered a back thing because you quickly learn the maximum volume level the sound system is capable of – at the cost of your ear drums.

there are a lot of situations though, where feedback is a good thing.  our five senses, for example, give us feedback on how our actions are affecting the world around us.  people who lose feeling in their fingers get burns and cuts and abrasions because they can’t tell they’re touching something hot or sharp or rough.

psychologists and behaviorists have found that biofeedback – giving people direct information about their physical condition – can allow them to vary normally-involuntary things like heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature.  hyperactive children have even been treated, simply by providing conscious feedback about their level of activity.

i believe that just like god designed us with senses to get feedback from our world, he also built in a mechanism to answer the question “how’m i doing?”  that mechanism is each other.

some of this life-feedback is formalized.  a teacher will fail you in a class if you don’t do the assignments or a judge may put you in prison if you steal things.  feedback is positive too of course;  getting an “a” in the class or a trophy for being the fastest swimmer.

every man’s way is right in his own eyes, but the lord weighs the hearts. – proverbs 21:2

but most facets of life require a finer brush.  should i choose this or that career?  am i talking too much?  do i really “get” this, or just think i do?   and for all those questions he has placed each of us in a context of other people.  parents and family members at first then friends and a spouse.  i think most of us who are married would agree that we’re most likely to hear corrective feedback, and hopefully reinforcing words as well, from the one we’re married to.  often the feedback we need the most comes from someone it’s hard to listen to – a brother or sister (maybe that persnickety one that drove you crazy growing up), dad or mom, or someone we’re envious of.  someone who knows us just a little better than we’d like to admit.  it is never pleasant or easy to hear: “i think you’re wrong”.  but sometimes we certainly need to.

he who separates himself seeks his own desire, he quarrels against all sound wisdom. – proverbs 18:1

the problem with god’s feedback system is that sometimes we’d rather not know.  we turn it off by refusing to listen to good advice from people who know and care about us.  that old foe, pride, says “i know what i’m doing” or “i can handle this myself”.  battles are fought, lives are lost, pain is brought on, when we shut down the communication channels – or refuse to develop them to begin with.

where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory. – proverbs 11:14

none of us, especially in the body of christ, should be making decisions in a vacuum about our family, relationships, career, or finances.  the pride in our flesh says “i’ll share this with someone once i get my life a little more in order”.  but the proposition is backwards.

it’s always easy to find someone who will agree with us – someone who will tell us we are right and the other guy is wrong.  that person is what the bible calls a fool.

the kind of friend most valuable to each of us is one who will spend time with us, listen, pray, and give godly counsel.  a person who will say the things we need to hear, even when they’re not what we want to hear, even when they’re had to say and hard for us to hear.  there isn’t room in a life for dozens of people like that, but each of us needs one or two.


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