|Photo by HS photography|
Sometimes I wonder if we measure our lives by how people perceive us and not how God perceives us. Sometimes I wonder if the valuable things in our lives really have any value if we don’t publicize them all over the internet. Or is the only thing worth anything nowadays our own self-validation? I wonder these things because I wrestle with these things. I struggle to not simply feel self-satisfied with the image I publicize and promote as opposed to being humbled by who I really am before God and nobody else. These are the kind of questions that hit close to home and make me want to throw out my computer and retreat from the public eye of the internet altogether. But then I think of all the pictures of my soon-to-be-one-year-old nephew that I would miss. Sure, I get to see him in real life (which, believe me, is way better than the photos and videos) but it’s nice to have the consolation of his cherubic face on Instagram when I’m not with him.
Besides, keeping up with email and Facebook is pretty much mandatory in today’s society. It's practically a crime to not own a cell phone/smart phone. College students are expected to check their email at least twice a day (preferably more frequently) because you never know if your professor will give you a new assignment or quiz partway through the day. You have to be completely accessible one hundred percent of the time in order to succeed. Don’t get me wrong. I love Facebook and email and blogging and Instagram and cell phones. I love being able to text and call people. I love getting in touch with someone by the simple click of a button. It’s an incredible convenience and privilege to be able to reach so many people instantly. But when did it become necessary? When did the internet become a vital accessory of our lives? I’m pretty sure people survived just fine before the internet existed. I think they managed with maps, letters, postage stamps and other paper things.
I love technology because it allows me to do so much so easily but sometimes I wonder if I don’t need to downsize my life a little. Maybe it’s better to do a little very well, to do a few very good productive things, to really and truly invest in the people who are right here instead of accomplishing a million busy-work tasks that don’t have a whole lot of significance. If you know me, you know that I’m an easily distracted ideas’ person. I want to follow every creative tangent that comes my way. The internet easily turns into a dark playground for me—a devastating reminder of all the million things I could do but never will, of all the people I could be better friends with but don’t have the time of day to really invest in. On the other hand, the internet provides a false and often times very pleasing representation of my life, an inflated perception of my accomplishments and a deceptive sense of control. But at the end of the day, it’s just a picture. It’s not the real deal.
I have to ask myself, what is? Without the image, without the front, without the “friends”, what does my life add up to? I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t forget the life you have right where you are. That is the life God has called you to. Reaching hundreds of people via the internet is an amazing thing, but it’s nothing short of hypocrisy if you’re ignoring the people in your immediate vicinity. Look around you at the people God has brought into your life. Look around at the tasks at hand. These are your priorities. This is your calling. To be completely honest, sometimes I don’t entirely appreciate God’s providence. Sometimes I’m not wholeheartedly enthusiastic about the people God brings through the doors of my church and through the doors of my home. Sometimes I wish I could pick the people God calls me to love. I can understand the appeal of staying at home and watching a worship service from the safe vantage point of my screen as opposed to actually going to worship, going into the world and risking colliding with people who aren't compatible with or appealing to me.
Technology gives us the option to isolate ourselves or at the very least control the people who invade our lives. I dread to think that the future of the church is a glowing screen instead of brothers delighting to dwell in unity together. Last I checked this is the mountain God commanded His blessing on, the mountain where the saints delight in dwelling together in unity (Psalm 133). By the way, a direct translation of that word unity is actually close proximity, brothers dwelling together. It’s not talking about brothers who live the same lifestyle and have the same ideals and it’s not talking about like-minded groupies hanging out together on Skype. It’s talking about physical space, about saints dwelling close to one another, invading each other’s space and hospitality in peace and unity.
The week after my brother Ben died my Inbox was flooded with messages from friends, classmates, relatives and even fellow saints I had never met before, people who had heard the news and were praying for us though they didn’t even know us. With the brief typing of a message and the click of a button, sixteen hundred saints across the country were praying for my family, multiple congregations were lifting our needs up to Heaven. It’s incredible how quickly and powerfully the church can communicate. But even those sixteen hundred prayers could never replace the vital necessity of the saints who filled our home that very night. Our pastor was at our house no more than an hour after we heard the news, the first responder of the spiritual hospital that is the church. He was there before the sheriff was there to tell us the news (the news we already knew). And let’s not forget the saints who flooded our homes in the days to follow, the prayers and tears we shared together, the songs we sang and the comfort we had. A picture can say a thousand words, but it can’t capture the blessedness in those moments and it certainly can’t replace them.
I love my blog, I love Facebook, and I love the people I’m able to stay in touch with via the internet. But I never want to sacrifice what I have here for something that, believe it or not, isn’t necessary. Saints dwelling close together. That’s necessary. Saints worldwide communicating via the internet. That’s a privilege of the twenty-first century. Don’t make the internet a curse by isolating yourself behind the screen. With all of the division and controversy in the church today, it might seem easier to withdraw into the virtual world or withdraw from the church altogether. But let’s not forget that God designed the church model the way it is for a reason. When God said that it’s a good thing when brothers delight to dwell in close proximity, He wasn’t joking. This is where He commands His blessing. People are worth it. They’re worth the risk of having our feelings hurt or our lives inconvenienced. Oh, and in case I haven’t mentioned this already, we need people.
Sunday afternoon I came into a house crowded with people. Our small humble abode is typically crowded with people Sunday afternoons. Every other week, our church hosts a fellowship lunch. On the weeks when they don’t host a fellowship lunch, my sisters and I host a fellowship lunch. Whoever is hungry is welcome into our house. My mother cooks tons of food and we contribute wherever needed. This last Sunday I came inside late afternoon and announced, “Who wants to change a flat tire?” About three or four guys enthusiastically jumped up to the task. It really is a blessed thing when brothers delight to live in close proximity.