Do you remember when people had satellite dishes the size of a circus tent? They were enormous. They were expensive. Back in the day, however, if you lived in the country, they were your only ticket to TV and lots of it.
At my house we had a trusty old antenna that pulled in at least two whole channels, NBC and CBS. On a good day we might be able to tune into ABC, although it was usually fuzzier than a peach. On a really, really good day we could pull in the elusive 41, which is now FOX. Back when it was an independent station, 41 was TV gold because they played cartoons and Gilligan’s Island reruns.
But, like I said, with our antenna we only got UHF stations on rare occasions, like if the skies were clear and Saturn and Neptune were aligned. It was very hard to predict. Even with NBC and CBS, though, you’d still have to make someone go outside and turn the antenna just to fine-tune the reception.
For all you youngsters who grew up on cable and Direct-TV, an antenna is a tall, aluminum lightning rod we used to strap to our houses to get TV reception. You got better reception on different channels depending on which direction you turned the antenna.
This was a two man job. One person would go outside and rotate the antenna while their co-pilot would stand by the TV and yell a steady stream of commands out the window like, “A little more, a little more, GO BACK, GO BACK, GO BACK! Too far. TOO FAR!” Meanwhile the poor antenna turner was either freezing to death in the winter or, in the summer, getting stung by the wasps who like to build nests by our back porch.
By the time we actually got the station tuned in, the show was either already over or we forgot what we wanted to watch in the first place.
So you can see the appeal of the Big Ugly Dish. Not only would you get a bazillion channels, but you wouldn’t have to brave the elements or fend off bees just to watch an episode of the A-Team.
In the nineties, the jumbo satellite dishes started their long, slow march to extinction with the introduction of the tiny dishes we see now. What changed?
Telecommunication companies got smart and built bigger, better satellites. Now you don’t need a 12 foot dish to pull in your channels. You just need the little tin pie plate supplied by your dish service.
These days, it’s not so much about our ability to catch the signal as the satellite’s ability to transmit it.
When I think of all this, it reminds me of what it’s like to hear from God. I hear people say all time that they don’t know how to hear God’s voice or that they don’t hear from God like other people do.
They think other people (the spiritual experts) have some kind of gigantic heavenly dish hard-wired into their souls, and they feel like me with my rusty antenna, lucky to pull in a couple of channels at best. The biggest problem with this kind of thinking is that it assumes listening to God is based on our ability to hear. It’s not. It’s about His ability to speak.
And trust me, God’s never had trouble speaking. Whether He’s talking through a burning bush, impressing a Bible verse on our hearts or speaking through our circumstances, God has no problem transmitting loud and clear. The truth of the matter is that there are no spiritual experts. It’s equal access for anyone who wants to hear.
The God dish comes standard issue in every human heart. Any time we want to tune in, all we have to do is aim ourselves in the right direction and trust God to take care of the rest.