It is no secret that people are looking down more than ever. It is interesting that while looking down at say, their phones, they have access to every piece of the world via the internet. But while looking down at a virtual world, we forfeit the privilege of seeing the world in person. Face to sky. Face to sun. Face to mountain. Face to ocean. Face to crowd. Face to face.
Quick poll/personal inventory: How many times did you intentionally look up today? How many of you have felt lonelier/discouraged/less connected to others the more you are trying to connect on social media?
It’s ok… take a few minutes to do some personal reflection. I’ll wait. This could be big for us–it’s totally worth the lack of comfort.
About a year ago, I realized that the more time I spent online (specifically on social media venues), had a direct correlation with how tired and groggy I felt throughout the day. It wasn’t like I was just wasting time online (lets be real–I have toddlers at home so I couldn’t do that even if I wanted to!) although I absolutely have been sucked into the blackhole of Instagram on more than a few occasions! However, the reality is my work is largely based online and social media is a huge piece of that. But I was realizing that investing so much energy in that online space left me with significantly less energy to ACTIVELY engage in the actual world around me the way God had created me to.
Now before I go on I want to say how incredibly thankful I am for the progress of technology and advancement. You guys- God is the most creative being EVER. He is the source of creativity and inspiration, and uses absolutely everything for His good. I have seen this abundantly with sharing the Gospel online. Bible studies, testimonies, news on other believers around the world and how to PRAY for them and ways to serve and give–that was absolutely not a mistake or an accident or coincidence. God intentionally put that burden in the hearts of men and women He created, to do that very thing so the name of Jesus could literally be more accessible to the ends of the earth.
That being said, I can no longer neglect the tension we are currently experiencing where online or even text-based acquaintances/friendships are often replacing intentional community Jesus was so passionate about. I recently found myself reading the short letters from John in 1, 2, and 3 John. As a writer, I often am captivated by words. I write them to my kids on their birthdays, I write them to Jesus in my prayer journal, and I write things that God lays on my heart to share online. As a millennial follower of Jesus, these words I am about to share with you from John challenged me so deeply and stirred my spirit in such a way that I can’t say that I’ll ever be the same. And friends, while growth is painful and awkward, there is not one moment that is not worth it. So I am praying you find yourself drawn in by His loving kindness and nudged to a new, life changing perspective as well.
At the end of 2 John in verse 12, as a closing to his letter, John writes these words:
“I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.”
Likewise, at the end of 3 John in verses 13-15 we read a similar sentiment:
“I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.
Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name.”
You can almost hear the urgency in his voice. His longing to be with his people, in their presence. Face to face. It’s like he knows that there is just too much that he might miss out on by not doing life in person. Together.
FACE TO FACE.
When I read those words, I was immediately inspired by the authentic friendship John had with these people in the early church. He knew the times were turbulent. He knew the struggles his friends (and himself) were facing were immense and their grief so deep and real that they could hardly catch their breath before the next blow. The urgency we hear in his voice comes from in importance of what he had to tell them. Their days were numbered. Their conversations were sacred. Their friendship holy.
John knew that what he had to tell them was way to important to tell them any other way than face to face. Here’s another quick poll for personal reflection: How many of our conversations are deeper than the shallowness of our flesh? How many conversations do we see as sacred? How many of our moments face to face with others are are accounted for as worth the time? How many of our conversations are making an eternal difference?
John not only wanted to visit these people face to face so he could tell them something sacred, but because he knew the unspeakable JOY that comes with authentic friendship. John knew that our joy would never, could never be complete without community. I have found this to be so true in my own life. I have found the longer I go without intentionally meeting face to face with other believers, the easier it is for me to make excuses to stay under my rock of comfort + selfishness (especially with my time). And the longer I go without community, whether that is coffee with a friend, a bible study group, or worship with my church family, the more negative I become without even knowing it.
I’ve seen that I become comfortable in my selfish worldview that I established within the walls of my home or heart, because I never invited anyone else in. When we sacrifice real community for anything other than God intended it, we are selling ourselves short on the JOY God has for us. Every time it has been hard to get out of the house, out of my comfort zone, etc. it has been 100% WORTH it in more ways than I can count. Trust me. Our joy will NEVER be complete without community.
These are the things we can no longer ignore. We are so good at being busy we are simultaneously LAZY at the same time. And then we wonder why we feel like something is missing? Like the joy in our daily life has just up and left? No, it hasn’t left. We just haven’t SHOWED UP. We are missing the ABUNDANCE of life we were made to enjoy (John 10:10) because we won’t go where the FACES are.
One more thing before we go. John says “GREET THE FRIENDS BY NAME.” Why would he say that? MAYBE BECAUSE IT’S IMPORTANT. And I am asguilty as anyone here. I am the WORST at remembering names. But there is no excuse for not treating an image bearer of God as such. If you take one thing from this (long) post let it be this challenge:
Let someone know you are there, that you see them. And by see them, I mean you see their face with your actual face. Not just a text. Tell someone you know they are there. They are worth looking up for because Jesus said they were worth dying for.
Leave a comment if you are up for the challenge, and share your experience with us! I am praying for you guys today and look forward to hearing from you! I can’t wait to hear how God moves through those willing to let Him use them. And don’t forget. Look UP. That’s where the faces are.