The rhythm of my writing has shifted, and I suppose that is in part because the rhythm of my life has as well. I find myself coming back to the blog more for reflections and less and less in search for resolutions.
While I do not underestimate the value of sharing life in real time, via a blog or social network(I’m looking at you IG stories), I now, more than ever, appreciate and affirm the importance of living out the deeper workings of life in the real life. You know, the one we seem to see less and less these days...the one offline. Hashtag IRL.
There’s a lot of talk these days about living with authenticity and vulnerability. I am not immune to the trappings of projecting vulnerability from behind a computer screen. Sharing and processing life with a delete button is hardly transparent. Some days I wish I had never shared my thoughts and writings following dad’s death online. But then again, it was never really a consideration of mine. I had been sharing online for over a decade on one platform or another--be it Myspace, Blogspot, or that gem you may remember as America Online.
The social media of today is quite different. It’s no longer a medium to essentially share your online scrapbook and reflections of life. It’s this mysterious abyss we find ourselves trying to navigate life in.
Sure we are wiser to the relationship these days. We applaud ourselves for spotting a multi level marketing pitch disguised as a friend request. We ‘know’ Instagram can fuel our insecurity over our bodies, homes, and more. But I think if we truly desire a life that reflects authenticity, that deeper way of living our souls crave, this ‘knowledge’ must move us into a better way.
It’s an odd thing sometimes. I work in social media management. I see the positive power of social media. I have experienced it. Today, I am grateful for a career in it. There is a relief, honestly, in this career path. Peeking behind the curtain of curating and social strategy for work has been nothing short of liberating in my personal life. The last year and half has been an unbinding of sorts. A bondage I didn’t realize I was in until I tasted real freedom.
I realized my relationship with social media/blogosphere in the year or so following my father’s suicide had shifted into something else. Somewhere along the way of sorting and sharing online I began to expect it to give me something back.
“Expectations are resentments under construction.”
― Anne Lamott
You know what is liberating? Not expecting social media to heal wounds, cure grief, or deem worthy.
“Sometimes the story we’re telling the world isn’t half as endearing as the one that lives inside us.”
― Donald Miller, Scary Close
Just knowing when my motivations are rooted in a need to satisfy my ego or make me feel significant loosens the ‘Great and Powerful Oz’s’ grip, ya know?
“Here are two things I found taking the long road, though: Applause is a quick fix. And love is an acquired taste.”
― Donald Miller, Scary Close
But is the root problem social media? Does this mean we have to permanently eliminate it from our lives?
I think not. So how do we utilize social media to not merely mask our ego, but rather expose it, revealing our complete and total need of God’s grace?
We have to clear the clutter. There is just so much of it coming at us. All the voices. All the opinions. All the subscriptions. All the inbox notifications. It’s numbing. So much noise. And this is not just reserved to the sharers. My friends, being a silent scroller does not protect us from absorbing the social media version of a life story. And the stories, how our ego loves to manipulate them.
I think intentionally clearing these digital distractions regularly, with great care, is vital. For me, the cultivating that has yielded real growth has been offline. It’s been about the quiet and the community.
I’ve mentioned how meditation has made it’s way into my life. I still hesitate with using the word meditation sometimes. I think that is for a couple of reasons. First, there is fear around what others will think when I mention it in conversation. And then there is my own old belief or idea that meditation is reserved for yogis and the Athleta catalog models, whose hair and makeup is inexplicably perfect for having just hiked to the top of a mountain.
But it has been here that the Lord has given me true rest.
Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. (Matthew 6:6)
It was in these meditative moments where God first cleared the clutter and met my anxious heart.
“The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven't yet come to the end of themselves. We're still trying to give orders, and interfering with God's work within us. ” Tozer
When you are in meditation, the digital distractions are gone. (put that phone on airplane mode!) The only voices you are absorbing, at this time, are from within yourself. Are you aware that there is story you are telling and sharing within yourself? And are you willing to listen to what slant it is sharing?
“How would you feel if someone outside really started talking to you the way your inner voice does? How would you relate to a person who opened their mouth to say everything your mental voice says? After a very short period of time, you would tell them to leave and never come back. But when your inner friend continuously speaks up, you don’t ever tell it to leave. No matter how much trouble it causes, you listen.”
― Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself
The awareness opens up space. Space to observe our thoughts and the story it is telling.
“Eventually it will become quiet enough so that you can simply watch the heart begin to react, and let go before the mind starts. At some point in the journey it all becomes heart, not mind. ... The mind doesn’t even get a chance to start up because you let go at
the heart level.”
― Michael Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself
We admit. We recognize.
“In order to be who you are, you must be willing to let go of who you think you are.”
Brene Brown calls this time of walking into our story and owning our story the reckoning and the rumble.
Meditation started as a tool to, essentially, “will my way” into peace. In His grace, God has transformed it into a practice I look forward to everyday. I find when I spend my time focusing my attention on the good good goodness of God rather than my own efforts for growth/success/healing/fixed (aka get your shit together living) that the rhythm is not so resistance filled anymore.
LESS FIGHT. MORE FLOW.
You are free to embrace the identity of who you are in God, and rely on Him to clean out the clutter of your mind. (Clutter that is more crowded and cramped and full of comparison in part because of what we are absorbing from our social media time)
“My mind is a neighborhood I try not to go into alone.”
― Anne Lamott
We can’t fix ourselves, but He can. An anxious mind and worrisome heart is not only unhealthy, it’s unholy.
So we recognize and we repent. Not out of shame or condemnation, mind you. I love how Sarah Bessey speaks about conviction:
“Conviction is less about condemnation than it is about invitation. It’s an invitation into freedom. It’s an invitation into wholeness. Perhaps our choices towards those invitations from God are really an intersection for our agency or free will and the Holy Spirit’s activity – maybe that’s where transformation begins.”
This sweet surrender is freedom, my friends.
"My son, if you accept what I am telling you and store my counsel and directives deep within you,If you LISTEN for Lady Wisdom, attune your ears to her, and ENGAGE your mind to understand what she is telling you,If you cry out to her for insight and beg for understanding, If you SIFT through the clamor of everything around you to seek her like some precious prize, to search for her like buried treasure; Then you will grasp what it means to truly respect the Eternal, and you will have DISCOVERED the knowledge of the one True God."(Proverbs 2)
“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace - only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.“Sometimes this human stuff is slimy and pathetic...but better to feel it and talk about it and walk through it than to spend a lifetime being silently poisoned.”
― Anne Lamott
The second element I have been reflecting on lately is the community. Another buzzword of late. I hope it’s significance is not lost.
(I want to note: In sharing this blog, I am speaking in terms of how this relates to social media and such, but of course the conversation is more than that. But for the purpose of this post, I’ll save the tangents and rabbit holes for my journal and conversations on the couch.)
Our ‘social media stories’ suggest an intimacy between ourselves and others that is not truly there. We know details of each others lives on the one hand, but have no knowing on the other, ya know? A curated life is not a complete one. And it’s not that we are all even conscious of this. Most of us are just individuals and we are not strategizing as a business would. However, we must admit that even if we are not aware, we are essentially telling a version of our lives. Information about someone does not equal connection with them.
True cultivation has to occur in a space where ‘do not disturb’ and ‘leave group’ are not so readily available. Although, these notifications are my best friend on the daily, as I somehow magically am put in at least 10 new LuLaRoe FB groups a day. I love you my friends, and I am not trying to throw shade. My true beef is with Facebook for allowing users to place other users in groups without permission. Annnd, to be honest, it’s just that my thighs and those printed leggings are sooo not a match. It’s just not going to happen. I can get my solid black ones on Amazon for $10 bucks. Seriously soft. Affiliate Link here. Jk, it's just a regular link. ;)
“I am willing to sound dumb. I am willing to be wrong. I am willing to be passionate about something that isn’t perceived as cool. I am willing to express a theory. I am willing to admit I’m afraid. I’m willing to contradict something I’ve said before. I’m willing to have a knee-jerk reaction, even a wrong one. I’m willing to apologize. I’m perfectly willing to be perfectly human…Grace only sticks to our imperfections. Those who can’t accept their imperfections can’t accept grace either.” Donald Miller, Scary Close
It's the offline connections that invite us into that vulnerable and authentic way of living and relating with one another. Your everyday real life people. Your neighbors, your coworkers, your friends. Living real life with each other. Not the life you perceive theirs is online. Or the one you consciously or unconsciously project of your own.
And of course, it’s not instant. I think our culture is so impatient(myself included) that we have forgotten that good things take time. It’s not pristine. But showing up and pressing in transforms us. It's not hurried, but dang when you experience that kind of community and connection, it feels holy.
I heard this distinction last year that continues to resonate with me:
"HEALING IS DIFFERENT THAN GROWTH."
I believe I’ve shared it here before, I only wish I can remember who said it so I can credit them!!! Maybe it was one of you, my brilliant friends.
The truth is my father's suicide has served as the biggest catalyst in my life towards change. Time has gifted me new perspective. Growing pains, essentially. My ego, my default, my flesh, and my sin have been there all along, mind you. While I do not believe it takes a tragedy to change, I do think it’s often these kinds of events that wake us up. Going through hard things can reveal much about ourselves. (My go to patterns, I am a 9 on the Enneagram, became crystal clear.)
It’s up to us to decide if we will stay in default mode or get to digging.
Social media is a terrible place for uprooting. Doing it with God and in community, well, there is true healing and hope this way.
It’s here we begin to ask more questions.
We gain clarity, and our perspective shifts.
“….but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2)”
And you know, these things take time. It’s not automatic.
“The road to enlightenment is long and difficult, and you should try not to forget snacks and magazines.”
― Anne Lamott
We forget. I forget. But with Him, we have a new ability to ‘Re-remember.’ (not a word. don’t care.)
And so, I just want to wrap things up with this...goodness, conclusions are hard and when I attempt to write them I go to all cheeseball to the max!! So forgive me for my Chicken Soup for the Soul style conclusion. You have been warned:
God is always there: cultivating and ever so patiently binding me to Him. Each of us has access to Him: the best content strategist, curator, and cultivator evahh. May we remember and re-remember this truth: What we believe about ourselves determines so much of how we live, the actions we take, and ultimately the stories we live and tell. The story God is telling in our lives is one of change and redemption. He does not just fix broken things, He makes all things new! In our seeking, may we find who we are in Him. And in our sharing, may we reflect His mercy, grace, and love. <3
One more thing:
It’s funny because it’s in the shifting that has gifted me something surprising. Redeeming, really. Social Media can be fun again. I love working with clients in helping them design a social media presence that is customized and comfortable for them. Giving others the tools to take back ownership of their online lives feels good. Real good.
Thank you, my friends, for reading along, and letting me sharing a few of my recent reflections this morning...and to those of you who have been with me in this blog space or internet land..this journey..seeing my rants, ramblings, and revelations( I just can’t stop with the R’s…!) , I am deeply grateful for you. The connection is online. But it is real. Thank you for being the exception to my rules ;)
Oh, not quite done:
I included a lot of quotations today. And that is in part because the authors and the resources mentioned have been so meaningful to me along this path...