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The Dial Tone of Heaven

September 24, 2021 • De Pree Journal

He picked up the phone, heard a dial tone, and it gave him great pleasure.

These days, fewer and fewer people know what that is. A “dial tone” is the sound of an active land line, a telephone primed, connected, and ready to dial a number opening up a communication, hence, a “dial tone.” My dad made a trade in setting these up, in starting a telecom business in the 90’s in Queens, NY. He’s an old-timer now, and we often talk about work and faith, and what these meant to him.

He told me about a huge job that came his way one day many years ago when I was young. Korean Airlines was opening up their own terminal at JFK airport and they wanted someone who was Korean-American and fluent in both languages to wire the whole thing, to set up all the communications wiring behind the walls before the drywall was put in. It was a huge gig, a lucrative opportunity, and required a crew working many long and late hours. It was exhausting and tiring labor that kept him out many nights, by his recollection. Oddly, I don’t ever remember him coming home late from work – he was always with us in the evening. Exceptions were the many nights, however, when he would head back out to church for evening services or deacon duties. Such a good man.

But despite the late hours working the wiring, he told me he never complained. This was opportunity, and the hard work was worth it. And the best thing for him was, at the end of the whole job, after the last night of tiring labor, to pick up the receiver and hear the dial tone come through. It meant the whole thing worked, the system was set up properly, and all the connections were made.

I haven’t heard a dial tone in a long time. And it certainly never really gave me pleasure. But I can imagine how frustrating it might’ve been had he picked up the receiver after all was said and done (a receiver is an old-fashioned phone, by the way) and heard nothing. I’m sure my dad had many nights like that, he’s just remembering the good stuff. But there must have been many a frustrating late night when after a full day of work no dial tone came through. No success. No connection. Only more trouble-shooting, sorting through the tangled mess.

Maybe lately you’ve had more nights like that than you want to remember. You’ve forgotten the assuring sound of success in your ear, and you hate the tangled mess left behind at work, night after night. We at the De Pree Center would like to share two things with you about that.

One. You need to step out of the wiring and reflect on the big picture. Dad would go to church many an evening. I’m sure he left a tangled mess behind at many work sites. “It will sort itself out overnight” is something he may have thought. I don’t know. But I did inherit his faith. I have seen God solve problems in my sleep. In my sleep! I did nothing to advance the cause, to untangle the mess; I just faithfully stepped away, gained perspective, and solutions came.

Some tangles are worse than others and can’t simply be slept off. This is when you might need to get away an evening a week, maybe to church, or maybe to meet with others working on untangling their own messes, and walking through a skillfully-facilitated process of lament, reflection, imagination, and innovation. The De Pree Center offers such a resource. Called the “Road Ahead,” our 6-week cohorts are designed to help you untangle the wiring so you can hear the dial tone again.

And that’s the second thing.

Two. Will we hear dial tones in heaven? At the De Pree Center we believe work is not vain, fleeting, and useless. In fact, we are not only inspired by the Christian vision of the restoration of all things in Revelation 21, our imaginations are fired by it. Maybe there will be dial tones in the new heaven and new earth. Imagine that! I can see dad, in the restoration of all things, picking up that receiver again, listening expectantly, and then lighting up with deep gratification in his chest as he hears the sound of success: so well done my good and faithful servant!

Hear that again and again over yourself. As a child of God, you can hear the dial tone of heaven both in the hereafter, but also in the here and now! Listen…

Well done, good and faithful worker! Well done!

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