Won't You Be My Neighbor?

>> Tuesday, November 20, 2012


I've said it once (or twice) and I'll say it again:

Facebook is weird.

Blogging is weird. The internet is very weird and borderline magical. Over the past few years I've been pondering to lesser and greater degrees (depending on what size headache I would prefer) the social implications and dynamics of the world wide web, specifically as it manifests itself through Facebook and other cyber venues of the like. But I think it comes down to being just a sign of the times. Not crazy Armageddon times, just the social evolution of humanity.

Ok, that still sounds pretty serious. And maybe it is. Just think of how infinitely smaller our world has become over the past fifteen years, even. 15--That's nothing! My three-year-old can count to 15. We rub elbows with friends and strangers half way around the world on a daily basis, but most of the time we're so desensitized to the miracle of it that we don't even bat an eye (which is probably a good thing--wouldn't want worldwide fainting spells and apoplectic fits happening. Think of the traffic jams that would cause...).

And while it would seem that our now-miniscule world would virtually eliminate man's disease of loneliness, it's widespread now more than ever; and not even I, the first to question the lasting benefits of social media, am immune.

I'm sucked in, too. Neo took the red pill, and I took the leftover blue one. Well, maybe I nibbled on the corner of it, just enough to keep me updating my Facebook status. And writing this blog. But not enough to Tweet. I used to Tweet, but when I did, my kids would poke and prod me with sticks to make sure I hadn't stopped breathing, or at least that I was intaking more oxygen than was needed to operate my index finger for scrolling. But I digress.

I hop on Facebook and see peoples' life stories unfolding before my very eyes, their daily struggles, accomplishments, frustrations, and what they ate for dinner. Really. I hardly remember what I had for dinner, but I know it wasn't good enough to take a picture of and brag about to my 252 friends. Unless it was our anniversary dinner. I did post that bad boy. I still remember the gazpacho. But I digress. Again. Because that's what navigating the internet conditions our minds to do, reconnecting those neurons just so that our cognitive processes can cope with the insane amount of information we subject ourselves to in front of that cool, inviting glow of the computer screen. But that's a whole other blog.

Now, where was I? Oh, yeah. Loneliness. Now, one could easily enough diagnose the disease and simply prescribe the antidote:

Hang out with real people that you know and like, in front of their faces, a lot.

But I think to simply dismiss the epidemic with a wave of the hand would be to miss an opportunity to gain understanding of who we are as human beings.

We are social creatures. It's in our spiritual and physical DNA. We're designed to commune; to know and to be known. And even though we know more now than ever (e.g. omniscience of what the online community had for dinner), I think the lack of being known plays a key part in our seclusion. Because while technology has made information insanely more accessible, it has given us the excuse to drastically decrease the amount of face-time interaction. Even a good old fashioned phone call has been reduced to a text message or email; and, heck, a good old fashioned email is being reduced to not even bothering with it, because everyone knows everything about everybody on the social network, anyway.

I said that I wasn't immune to this phenomenon. It's a mind-boggling thing to be a stay-at-home mom with two energetic toddlers and a work-from-home husband, attend church on a bi-weekly basis, go to a Mothers of Preschoolers meeting once a week, throw in the occasional children's play-date, have friends over on a fairly regular basis, and yet still feel that keen sense of longing for more substantial communion at any given point in the day. Only after about three and a half years of what I'll call this "season" of loneliness on various levels and degrees, I am only now starting to see a glimmer of hope, in part due to changes in circumstances, but mostly, I think, because of what God is teaching me.

For those who really know me (which might be two or three?), they would assume that I'm usually--if not almost always--looking to see how God is working in my life, because He's promised that He uses all things to work good in his children (I think He takes special pleasure in using the bad just to sock it to the Devil, but that's only a theory). In fact, my spiritual antennae is up so high, I can watch the movie Strictly Ballroom and find just as many points of theology in it as I would reading C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity. But, up until recently, I couldn't for the life of me see where God was going with this solitude thing.

No, that's not really true.

Thinking about it just now, I remember a while back musing to one of those two or three people that God was probably using this time to teach me how to rely on Him to fulfill that relational want. I just didn't like it. Which is probably why this season has stretched into years instead of only months. I am the nicest, kindest, most stubborn person I know, after all.

But I think I'm finally getting it. While I have been wasting spending time on Facebook to catch up on friends (on, mind you, not with), I've really only been distracting myself and putting off investing in the most important relationship of my life: with the One who made me, for goodness' sake. Why? Because relationships take work and I'm lazy. Relationships are hard, especially with those you can't see or touch or hear. Like God, for instance.

But the nice thing about God is that He loves perfectly and pursues us relentlessly.

The voice of my beloved!
Behold, he comes,
leaping over the mountains,
bounding over the hills.

Song of Solomon 2:8 

In all my live-long Christian life, I've never been much for reading the Song of Solomon, but recently it's dawned on me. There is God, leaping over every new social technological advancement and bounding over every distraction to reach us.

Behold, there he stands
behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
looking through the lattice.
My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
and come away..."

Song of Solomon 2:9b-10

If you read that passage carefully, you'll notice the beloved had to call out to her to get her to wake up. Yep, that's me. Asleep. Counting sheep as I scroll and scroll and scroll.

Are you getting it?

I don't think I'm the only one with this problem of prioritizing relationships, especially regarding the one that matters most...but God knows. He knows each of us to our status-update-loving core. God will go so far to be first in our lives that He will let us feel alone in this tiny, elbow-rubbing, interconnected world; and not only that, but even to allow us to feel a shadow of want for deeper connection among our most cherished real-life relationships; all to draw us into that red-pill, deeper-than-marriage, wider-than-friendships, larger-than-life relationship with Himself.

So, neighbor, does this mean I'm going to ditch my Facebook account or stop blogging? Nah, I still have to tell you about the shenanigans my children pull when I'm away in the bathroom. But it is a wake-up call to spend my time wisely as to who I will seek to know best, and realizing who has been seeking out me more than all the internet search fields combined.

Mmm...red pill.


Prowess and Pearls November 26, 2012 at 1:32 PM  

Hi! Found you over at The Better Mom Monday Link-up and glad I did! No, you're not the only one who feels that way. With the holiday season upon us, we must make an extra effort NOT to become even more distracted from the relationship that matters the MOST...the one between us and God. Thanks for the reminder!

Sarah November 26, 2012 at 2:30 PM  

Hi, Michell,
Thank you for visiting, and for reading my long blog! God bless you and your ministry!
~Sarah :)

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