Sunday, January 26, 2014

Is Our Social Media Addiction Infringing on Scripture's "Secret Place"?

We live in a world where we can literally be connected with individuals at nearly any place on the globe with the press of a button. Texting, Skype, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, email, and other resources are at our fingertips to communicate with almost anyone at any time, and we often, in very real ways, live our lives through these technological lenses . . .

Does the meal taste just as good if you don't take a picture of it and post it on Instagram first?

Is your life just as fun and exciting and filled with travel and accomplishments and good times with good friends as it appears on Facebook?

Have you ever done something just so you can tweet about it or update your status?

Why can't we talk about the tough stuff on social media too . . . like loneliness or depression or real struggles in real relationships?

Is it really possible for us to show our real selves on the Internet . . . #nofilter?

I have never thought about this before, but I've realized lately that we live out much of our spiritual lives entirely in the public eye because of social media and other technologies. We post about church and prayer and the Bible and charitable work and the ministries we support and what God's doing in our lives. We Instagram photos of megachurch services with thousands of people with their hands raised in praise--but only after choosing the perfect lighting, contrast, and cropping, of course. When we do something for God, my goodness, we let people know about it. Think pictures of college students surrounded by African children at an orphanage on their short-term mission trip, or statuses about what a great time you had volunteering for XYZ Christian humanitarian organization. I do it too, and I'm not condemning it in the slightest, but I think we need to stop and think about it just a little bit more.

Have we ever considered that maybe, by so much sharing and clicking and connecting and posting and tweeting, we're bringing the whole world into some areas of our lives that were meant to remain intimate--just us and the Lord? That we're cheapening sacred moments by turning them into statuses? Because some things are meant to be between you and God, in the secret place.

Consider Psalm 91: "He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." Or Isaiah 45: "I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name." And even Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount commanded His listeners not to tell the world about everything they do for God: don't let everyone know when you're fasting, don't pray on the street corners where everyone can hear you, and when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. In other words, sometimes we need to shut up about it! I read that verse in Matthew last night and my first thought was, "Oh. I think I kind of forgot all about this." God cares about your heart, not what you tell the world online. It is far better to do something for God that only you and He know about it than to do something for Him primarily so that you can tell the world all about what you did. And maybe, at an even more basic level, we need to stop posting so we can start experiencing. Put down your iPhone so you can join others in worship. Forget the camera for a day so you can really look in those children's eyes and share with them how much God loves them. Don't live your life in retrospect through the photographic and social media-driven trail we can create--live it as it happens. It's a whole lot better that way.

I don't want to miss out on these secret moments with God. And I don't want you to miss out on them either. Moments where He whispers His grace and mercy to your heart, and yours alone. Where He reminds you of his promises, holds your tears in his hands, and sings songs of joy over you. Moments where you can laugh and cry with God. Those things aren't always meant to be shared. There is much to be said for the deep and heartfelt and passionate intimacy of the secret place, for life experiences we share with God and no one else, for dreams and secrets and stories and confessions that only He knows about. He desires intimacy with you, and I believe that intimacy can be affected in real ways by our obsession with sharing every detail of our lives with the world. Sometimes you shouldn't share it, because it is your treasure to keep. Don't bring Facebook or your Twitter account or your smartphone into the secret place. It's secret for a reason. Don't let technology compromise your ability to be alone with God; your ability to do things for God just because you love Him, not because you think they'll make you look good; and your ability to experience life with Christ as it unfolds, not later. Your relationship with God is not about showmanship or competition with others or being better than the next person.

May we not forego the blessings of the secret place because we feel compelled to share it with the world.

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