I really can’t tell why I haven’t been able to fall asleep the past few days – could be a combination of the heat, caffeine, work related stress, and undulating happiness (and maybe the steroids I’m currently on for my weird bug bite…). Nevertheless, God has slowly taught me to stop tossing and turning in favor of sitting up, criss cross apple sauce, and talking to Him like old friends catching up at a sleepover. There’s so many things I want to tell Him and my lips move faster than I can think because I’m worried I’m not going to be able to pray everything I need to pray but then He reminds me that He already knows all my thoughts, all my ways, and He knows exactly what I need. I do not need to talk to Him to beseech Him of anything or move Him to respond in any way (the Lord will do what He wills and He will do for me even things I do not know to ask Him for); I talk to Him simply because it contents my heart to do so – because I am filled with stories and news and little heartbreaks and big breakthroughs and He is the only one who can listen to me ramble on and on forever and still want to hear more.
Anyway, unable to sleep and heart just very much wishing to give praise – I want to share this loooooong teedibt with anyone willing to read – I spontaneously bounced from the social media world three weeks ago and went through a crap ton of ups and downs and learned the following rambling teedbits:
The abrupt two second decision to cut social media out of my life did not carry any intentionality at all. I merely wanted to withdraw from the world and hide – from both the prying eyes of the outside world and my incessant need to paint a picture that I was doing okay.
I was not doing okay. Even when I flew to the opposite end of the country, the clouds followed me there. When I posted pictures of myself laughing and smiling and singing on vacation, it felt like a chore. It was wearisome to maintain joy in the face of pain – it was maddening to look at the contacts in my phone, at the profiles of my friends on messenger and not be able to say to them; “help me.” For whatever blimp in my understanding of faith, I found it utterly unacceptable to be sad in the face of the Gospel. How could I be sad when I know that Jesus loves me? What would that reduce Jesus to? Where’s the power of the Gospel in that?
Interestingly enough, it was not that hard to quit social media cold turkey – in fact it was a relief (save for the few times I itched to just instastory whatever dish I had ordered at a fancy new restaurant but ayyyy I learned to yelp instead and LO AND BEHOLD I GOT YELP ELITE HUZZAH). But, what I have learned through the (disappointingly short three weeks I lasted…) time period of avoiding social media is how deeply my human soul wished to glorify itself. It’s ridiculous. Alright, I’m hanging out with friends – let me put that on my story so people will know that I have friends. Cool, I have a nice voice – let me spend two to three hours agonizing over a cover to upload so people can say nice things about my nice voice. Look, I’m working over time while everybody else is frolicking in the sun – let me complain about it and simultaneously showcase how hard my life is so that people can tell me, “poor baby.”
Does this not just scream little kingdom building? Instead of putting my brain to better use and intentionally thinking of ways I can put Jesus’s name out there (there – as in real life world there), I am ambling away time trying to plaster my name all over people’s feeds. I have never been so convicted in my sinfulness in wanting everything to be about me rather than about Jesus. Even instagram posts with long winded captions that included “Jesus”, or “faith”, or “grace”, were filtered to color myself in a “holy” light. It came down to this: I want to paint a picture of my own life in a way I can filter, brighten, and control. It is not by any means a medium through which I serve other people – it is completely self seeking and glorifying. Even when I try to use it as a platform to “evangelize” it is still at the root of it a self promoting banner that says “look – I am holy because I am not afraid to mention Jesus on my profile.”
But, what about in real life? Where are my mentions of Jesus in the present, in your face, circumstances where people can see me with no screen for me to hide behind? How bravely can I proclaim the name of Christ without that screen of protection? How authentic am I on social media versus real life (very…not)? When it comes down to real suffering, real poverty, real brokenness, dirt and grit, where am I? Do I post about it on wordpress or do I go out into the filth and get my reputation dirty?
In my real, physical life, I was breaking. It’s easy to type: “The Lord is good!” and probably mean it in the short two seconds it took you to type such proclamation but to say it with your own lips staring at a person who really knows nothing about what’s going on behind the bones and flesh of your corporeal body – what’s deep down in your heart and the overwhelming feelings of doubt and grief and fear that are waiting to consume you – how honest am I when I say, “The Lord is good?” yet hide all the evidences of trail and suffering in my life because I don’t know how to present the case that God is good in the midst of it all? Well, of course God is good – when it’s all sunshine and grass plains and wildflowers. But, what about when it has been storming for months and months on end and you still feel bitterly dry inside? In those seasons, I would stay quiet about it (in real life and social media) until it passed and then share for the utter sake of proving such case that God is good because look! I came out of it didn’t I?
What Jesus taught me during this time was that I didn’t owe a perfectly aligned insta-worthy picture of grace to the world and neither did He want me to appear in front of them like so. I am wired to misalign, darken, blemish, and flaw for the purposes of glorifying Him! So that His perfect craftsmanship, His healing touch, His redeeming brushes of grace could restore me. Not by pure willpower or strength of my own – because the (insta)story isn’t about me; it’s about HIM. What the Lord taught me is that it is perfectly excusable to be sad. It is perfectly excusable to break. It is perfectly beautiful to Him to surrender to the pain and tell Him (and the world), “I don’t understand, I don’t want this, I don’t trust you at all…but I want to, I want to, I want to.” Because, then you direct the story to Him and He gets to show the world that He is in fact trustworthy and all deserving of praise.
And so literally because I was so stubborn in coming to Him and I am weeping now as I write this because it is terrifying to share this because I still feel shame and weakness: the Lord waited until I put a knife to my arm to show me how utterly broken I was. Physical pain is sharp and focused – I would not have time to think about any other sort of pain (was my oh so logical train of thought). I marked up my skin – faint lines of shredded white and pink, too terrified to press harder and deeper and so utterly frustrated that I could not even cut myself properly. So be it, I believe the Lord did not want me to hurt myself. After various failed attempts to draw blood, I dropped the knife, picked up my phone, called my best friend, (someone I sadly do not regularly talk to), and cried. The Lord spoke through her (thank you, Vivian); “you’re too hard on yourself,” resonated with me (and baffled me) the most and I woke in the morning to unblemished, unmarked skin. I turned my arm this way and that, carefully scrutinizing for any hint of a scratch and guffawed. Peachy perfect – and just like that, I felt the Lord reassure me – just like the skin of my flesh heals, so will the threads of my spirit – and He will be the one to weave me back together.
Baby steps. I started understanding that I did not need to have it all together and started letting go. If I was tired, I was tired. If I was sad, I was sad. I did not try to be otherwise. When people asked how I was doing (because they genuinely did not know since they could no longer creep on me via snapchat HAH), I started to be more real – lip quivering, voice shaking, body quaking when I told them what was going on. I no longer had an output source via social media and thus was more prone to share in person (credited to my narcissistic, self-centered nature…I’ll work on it). All this to say…God brought mountain loads of healing into my life during this time and rescued me from the valley I had submerged myself in.
All praise to you, thank you, Jesus.
That aside, something I like to think about is what would Jesus do in this time saturated with technology and social media…would He be preaching from the podium of facebook or would He be humble and quiet, infiltrating the masses by planting Himself in real lives rather than online profiles? At the most recent retreat I attended, I had the privilege of listening to Pastor Thomas Wong preach – he said something that really struck me: Jesus had to have been a great preacher. I mean – He was the Word in FLESH. His words must have been liquid gold, wells of wisdom and revelations. Yet – only one of His sermons are recorded in the Bible – for all of history to read. Only one. Why not record more of His sermons?? Why not latch onto every single sweet word that fell from His lips? The gospels choose instead to document Jesus’s life. Who He touched. What He did. How He loved. Jesus talked the talk and walked the walk and He bled doing it. So where does that leave me, in the (debatable) comfort of my little studio apartment, eyes glued to a 4 by 4 (give or take) screen?
I’m back on facebook (ironically enough, my account kept reactivating every week despite everything I tried to keep it gone so I take it that God won’t smite me for frequenting it again) but I have refrained from installing the app on my phone. Same as to instagram – my fingers are just too trigger happy to touch upon those little icons… I have an irrational fear that all the contentment and peace that I have accumulated over these past few weeks will dissipate with increased exposure to social media again, but I am also fervently praying that the Lord will teach me how to use it wisely (and care-freely if possible).
This is not to say that I believe social media is pure sin and all should mass deactivate now. I realize also that the Lord displays so much of His glory in ordinary things – the beauty of a perfectly aligned photo (oh how I could stare for hours at a perfectly aligned photo…); the joy of friending someone who shares similar interest as you; the excitement of living vicariously through someone’s snap story when you yourself do not have the means of doing the same. The world is beautiful and wondrous and awe inspiring – so reflective of its Creator, and I have no doubt that the Lord does His saving work even through the blue and white buttons of facebook. I think the challenge is learning to be in the world but not be of it – to still dwell among the masses of instagrammers and snapchatters yet still have something else that drives our desire to share our personal lives over the internet besides just wanting the world to know and like us. But, with every thought and intention that our will would be to live for the Lord, in such a way that we desire that the world know and love, and ultimately follow Jesus.