Finding community in the Portland area has been difficult. I have hung out with friends here and there, but I have not yet found something consistent – something week to week. I don’t think I have much of an excuse since there’s a church right across from my apartment complex, but finding community is more than simply going to church. It’s about investing in friends – both new and old – and engaging people on a relational level. And because I’m lacking genuine person to person community, I’ve gravitated toward the online communities.
As many social media users know, outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even LinkedIn allow us to present ourselves as we want to be seen. We make sure we aren’t picking our nose in our profile picture (or that we are – depending on the image you want to present), tweeting things that shouldn’t be tweeted, or listing previous jobs that didn’t work out so well (where we were either fired or laid off and we still don’t want to talk about it). It’s like social media is a paperless résumé; a small medium through which we present ourselves in the best light possible.
Problem is this isn’t reality.
Editing our profiles so people see us as we want to be seen isn’t allowing them to see us as we are. Everyone knows that you’re supposed to wash your car before you sell it. But, as I learned this past summer, what really matters is how well things work under the hood. In the same way, who we are underneath the masks of Facebook, Twitter, and even our blogs is most important.
A side effect of having online community as one’s primary source for social involvement is that one develops the habit of being someone other than who they truly are. Over time, this develops into a disability; being someone else for so long that one cannot be honest and real with one’s self. As I wrote about before, this is oftentimes why we can’t deal well with silence; because it causes us to deal with who we really are.
Joshua 7, as referenced last post, highlights a moment when someone took something he shouldn’t have and was punished for it. Moral discomforts aside, I can’t help but notice what he did with the something he stole:
“Then Joshua said to Achan, ‘My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel and make confession to him. Tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.’ And Achan answered Joshua, ‘It is true; I am the one who sinned against the Lord God of Israel. This is what I did: when I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantle from Shinar, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, then I coveted them and took them. They now lie hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.’” Joshua 7:19-21
He buried it.
Jesus tells us that a wise person is one who builds their house on the bedrock, but notice what he says in Luke 6:47-48:
“Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.”
Years ago at a CCF (Collegiate Christian Fellowship) retreat, a pastor named Brett Gilchrist shared a message about this passage and he slowed things down. He pictured both the wise person and the unwise person building their houses next to each other. While the wise one kept digging, the unwise was already putting up walls. When the wise person had finally reached the bedrock, the unwise had finished their three-story house. As the wise one began laying the foundation, the unwise was decorating. While the wise finally began building the house, the unwise was putting in a pool. Finally, as the winds began to blow and the clouds covered the skies, the wise person finished their simple little house while the unwise was adjusting their new satellite dish. You can imagine the shock and horror of the unwise person as the water washed underneath their home and carried it away, while the wise person nervously watched, but was safe.
The wise person was safe because they had put in the work to dig up dirt and lay the foundation the right way. Christ wants to build a home for Himself within us, but He needs us to dig. Yet we don’t want to because it means we’d be unburying all the skeletons, lies, addictions, abuses, and all the other things we didn’t want people to see. We can’t hide behind our Facebook page when we’re facing God; He knows something’s wrong.
We bury things that we’ve either done wrong or hurt us in some way. For years I used to hold my emotions in when talking about my childhood. Even to this day, I still have physical reactions to the memories. For instance, in The Blindside (the movie), Michael Oher has a flashback to when he was a kid in the backseat of a police car crying out for his mom who was being restrained outside her apartment. Although my memory is slightly different, I still recall when I was in the back of a police car while my mother was outside her apartment crying. Every time I see that scene, I begin to shake uncontrollably; in most cases, I have to skip it. And I still have the teddy bear the police officer had given me.
Hiding who we are is oftentimes because we have a painful memory we’ve tried to erase. We seek all sorts of means to erase that memory, but ultimately wind up causing more bad ones – not just for ourselves, but for those who love us as well. If we devoted our time to engaging them and letting them in to see what Christ is doing within us, we may not feel anymore comfortable, but we’d be healthier.
No, I’m not saying delete any of your social media profiles; I’m saying share a meal with some of your friends or family members instead Instagramming what you cooked (or do both if you must Instagram). Instead of posting pictures and status updates about how miserable or awesome your life is, tell somebody in person or over the phone about how much they mean to you.
Practice authenticity – for your own sake and for the sake of those around you. It makes digging up your dirt much easier if you have someone to help.