So I have been back from my “social media hiatus” for about a week now, and it’s been…interesting.
For those of you who didn’t know, the day after my birthday back in December I decided to give up Facebook for a month to see how it went. I still used Instagram, so I think it still posted some pictures, but I wanted to see what it was like to not have in my life.
You know it’s really funny…I am one of those people that has had a love/hate relationship with technology and social networking. I love keeping in touch with friends who don’t live nearby, seeing pictures, hearing about an exciting announcement….but for whatever reason, and usually I just prepare myself for this around election time (har har), there seemed to be a LOT of opinions going around that were distracting me from the things that matter the most.
Around that time there were some big news stories that came out. Between Duck Dynasty and states passing marriage equality laws and the always fun “Is the true Christmas disappearing?” debate, everyone seemed to have really strong opinions. And there were days that it seemed like people woke up, sat behind their computer or smartphone, and really didn’t care who they hurt or how insensitive they sounded as long as they got their status or comment out to the world. Facebook became their own therapy session. I think a lot of the time we don’t realize how harsh something sounds in writing until we go back and read it. Suddenly, logging in to check my messages became something I was dreading, because I knew I was going to see people just attacking each other back and forth via comment boxes and like buttons.
But that was also the time that I began questioning just why it was getting under my skin so much. I would like to think that I am a nice person where maybe it was just that I didn’t like seeing people condemning each other, but I think there was also a deeper issue going on.
This is where my title comes in: I am preaching to myself here. I think sometimes the things that get me the most fired up, whether it is passionate or frustrated, are the things that I am the most angry or irritated at myself for.
Facebook and the media gave me the opportunity to see point blank, in writing, some of the most hurtful words imaginable. There were some people who I was sort of afraid to talk to afterwards. But I started thinking about all of the random thoughts that pass through my mind throughout the day that can be just as harsh.
I don’t like this ugly side of my heart. I like to pretend it doesn’t exist. I love meeting new people, learning more about them, hugging them (hopefully I don’t scare you away?) and just talking. When I get to have a really good one-on-one or small group conversation, it takes me out of my own head. Those are the moments I value the most in retrospect. I think that is part of the reason I am a social worker: I love focusing on other people and problem solving, trying my best to offer the love of Jesus along the way, and then just getting to learn from them and talk about what I too struggle with.
But in reality, just because I don’t always necessarily blast out my negative thoughts, particularly in writing, doesn’t mean that I don’t have them.
I still sometimes look at people and make snap judgments based on the way they are dressed, their accent, how their hygiene is, and so forth. If someone is screaming at another person in public, I automatically make assumptions about the state their life is in. And so on, and so forth.
(Before I keep going, if one person reading this could just shoot me a message and be like “I struggle with this too!” I’d really appreciate it! Starting to get a little deep now.)
There are thoughts that I have that would be extremely hurtful to both myself and other people if I stated them all the time. I don’t think I really deserve a gold medal for just being able to keep my mouth shut. I get into less hot water that way, but also don’t believe it is realistic to ever say “My goal is that one day I will never think a critical thought about another person ever again.” Not only is that unrealistic, but it isn’t very productive either.
What I was thinking about today though was how God never ever condemns us. That is not from God. Sometimes He convicts us – if we are doing something that is harmful to ourselves or others, He may say “This has to end. There are some things that you need to be made aware of and change.” And sometimes we are convicted with a huge slap in the face, while other times it is a subtle comment that is actually a massive wake-up call. At that point we have to apologize, try to make amends, and change our direction. Sure, depending on the circumstances the consequences might follow us around. If you have spent five years abusing alcohol for example, then are able to make the decision to become sober, receive help, and stay clean for two months, there are still people who might doubt how long it will last. There are still people who will condemn you for your past. Heck, you could live a completely perfect life and there are people who will condemn you.
But God never, ever does. Any condemnation, accusation, or temptation comes from somewhere else.
I think that is part of the reason I love Sundays so much. I feel so, so blessed to be surrounded by people that the world sees as statistics. The teenage moms, the former drug addicts, the people battling cancer, the children of single parent households. The world knows them only by these titles. There are ways that I can identify with many of these people that bring us a joint sense of comfort that God loves us no matter what. But we are so much more than these classifications, stereotypes, demographics.
Now this is stuck in my head:
“You are more than the choices that you’ve made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You’ve been remade.”
-Tenth Avenue North
These people inspire me so, so much. Sometimes I can’t get over the fact that some of them are in the same room as me to worship after the way that some churches have treated them in the past. I love them tremendously as brothers and sisters.
But even with that love, when I am not held accountable within my own heart and by my friends, my thoughts and emotions can be ugly.
This is why I decided to take a one month break away from Facebook. I really wanted to step away from some of the accusations flying around over “Well you aren’t a true Christian if you don’t do this” or “You are just a Jesus freak, how can you believe in this, you are crazy” or “How can you vote this way and yet still do this?” and so on. It’s exhausting, and I decided that in order to become stronger and focus more on God, that I needed to break away and pray about the change that He wants to make inside of me instead of in the whole world all at once.
“Where you are today is no accident. God us using the situation you are in right now to shape you and prepare you for the place He wants to bring you into tomorrow. Trust Him with His plan even if you don’t understand it.” – Christine Caine
I still learn every day; I learn how to be more gracious and forgiving, and I learn more about the unconditional love that has been promised to me by grace alone. I will rejoice in the knowledge that there is nothing that can condemn me, and continue to fight against my own tendencies that do not act to glorify the one who chose me before I was born.
But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace. Then it pleased him to reveal his Son to me so that I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles. – Galatians 1:15-16