Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Don't Worship Facebook

See that little red circle around the black clock on my browser toolbar? That is a Chrome extension called Stay Focused. I have a list of sites that do not pertain to my work and are especially tempting time wasters. Stay Focused allows me to visit these sites for a predetermined time period. When time is up it blocks access to all the sites on my list. I've found it a great tool to help me manage my online time wisely.

My list of limited sites includes Facebook, Instructables, YouTube, and others.

But something happened the other morning that "got me ta thinkin'" about my use of Facebook. I woke up, and without much thought, reached over to my cell phone and opened my Facebook app. It was the first thing I wanted to do in the morning! I put my cell phone back down and admonished myself for being so shallow and felt really guilty for some reason. Still the desire to pick my phone back up and just scroll through a few updates was nagging me. What's wrong with me?

StayFocused keeps me from squandering internet time
I didn't know at the moment why I felt my desire was bad, why it should be labeled a "temptation" and not just a regular event in life. After some meditation on the subject I realized my danger. You see, the feeling I had toward Facebook was a feeling I had had before toward something else. I realized the desire I had to get up and discover what was happening on Facebook matched a similar desire I have had at times in my life to get up and discover what I could learn from time in the word of God. 

That "at times in m life" phrase may bother you because I am a pastor. Perhaps you believe as a pastor I should at all times be excited about reading my Bible. I confess I am not. Let me tell you why. Seeking God is an exceptional exercise. It is like mountain climbing. There is great reward, but there it requires great struggle. There are moments of ease and comfort, and there are moments that require great sacrifice and endurance. No one should be deceived into thinking that worshipping God is an easy or comfortable activity. But I can testify that it is worth it. The reward is incomparable. So, yes, I can only say that I am sometimes really excited about "getting into God's word" as we Evangelicals like to say. Other days I still make the effort. I still discipline myself to try because in the trying I am building up the endurance and patience and spiritual strength and wisdom it will take to be ready for the next thing the God has for me to experience. I have learned that it is worth it.

Now Facebook (or Pintrest or Twitter or ESPN or whatever .com it is that entices you) comes along and offers a much less rewarding yet more consistent experience of fulfillment. We have built into us a hunger to experience truth. That hunger is only rightfully fulfilled by God, but the internet offers the feeling of truth fulfillment. Social media gives us the feeling of connectedness not only to people but to a vast wealth of knowledge. Where God seems to be stingy with his revelations, the internet will leave no curiosity denied. Our smart phones represent an (apparently) endless repository of knowledge, the ability to know what all our friends are doing, instructions about how to be feeling about the world, and the chance to speak our thoughts in a way that we know will be heard and might possibly get instant feedback. All in a package we can carry around in our pockets.

When we pray to God we often get silence and waiting. When we pray to Facebook (status update) we get likes, shares and comments. When we read the Bible we often have to study diligently and endure puzzling difficulties. When we peruse our feed we don't have to spend time thinking about anything. We don't even need to read long articles; we can just watch the video and be told how to think and feel. When we allow God to speak to us we are often challenged to change out thinking or behavior. When we listen to social media we are reaffirmed in our bias, fears and comforts because we have a self-perpetuating system of likes.

I know it is all silliness. I don't really think Facebook sustains me emotionally or spiritually or intellectually. It just feels like it does. So like a drug gives your body the feeling of health and pleasure for a moment, Facebook can make my spirit feel sustained. Like candy makes your mouth happy, social media can give you an emotional sugar rush of affirmation. But drugs and candy will not sustain a healthy human! 

So if we really want to experience God--that is, if we really want to have a meaningful interaction with our creator in such a way that we are aware that He is real and He is active in our life. If you want to have that experience like I do, then we are going to have to squelch the competition. We are going to have to mute the things in our life that pretend to offer the same things that God does. It is not as easy as blocking tempting sites (though that may be a useful thing to do). There will always be new temptations, new false idols, new ways to be drawn away from a healthy hunger for God's kingdom. I do not want to allow "drugs and candy" to dull my spiritual hunger. I want to be fully alert even if it means temporary suffering, self-denial and waiting. 

Lord, watch over my heart and help me not to worship Facebook.