I mentioned yesterday on Facebook that I’d had a chat with my sister. And that conversation has been bubbling in the back of my mind all night and all day. It’s a funny thing. This beautiful woman whom I have known all my life often approaches me with some hesitancy about matters like this. She sees herself as a mom and a housewife on a farm. Now, don’t get me wrong, she’s also extremely content with that life that God has so blessed her with. But, I often wonder what exactly she must see when she looks at me that makes her feel I might somehow have more answers about this life than she. I am, after all, a simple mom and housewife myself, and not nearly as successful at it as she is.
Perhaps that is one of the things I needed to think about, and share here tonight, and why those thoughts began with the urge to share what I see when I look at her. She’s beautiful, and always has been even when she was a little girl, six years younger than me and driving me crazy. More than that though, she is a phenomenal mom to a rambunctious two and a half year old and a teenage son with Fragile X. She amazes me with how fierce she is in protecting, guiding and growing those boys. She’s also pretty amazing at that housewife gig, keeping up with meals and housework and organizing her household in ways that make me exhausted just thinking about them. On top of all that, she is a wonderful daughter to our parents, a wonderful sister to me and my other sister, and a strong woman of faith. And she’s better with people than I have ever been. So, when she has an insight into how I’m interacting with people, I have found it is always worth my time to not only listen but really think about what she’s saying.
She said I’ve been too political. Not in the sense that I should stop talking about politics. But, in the sense that it had become so overwhelming that it drowned out who I am and what I had to say about politics. She said I needed to be silly, needed to be human. She was right. I can probably come up with a thousand reasons why I have slid into that space these last few months. Legitimate reasons why the habit developed of not sharing as much of myself here on the blog or over on Facebook. But, the reality is, the reasons don’t matter. Because I, and many of those I know, have forgotten some things in the frenzy of factionalized politics and faith.
And in her reminder to be human if I want to be heard, it finally hit me what it was. When I first began in social media was back in 2009, it started as a tool to promote my Pursuit of Happiness Show over on Blog Talk Radio. I discovered very quickly though that if I wanted to reach people with the show, I needed to interact with them. I needed to get to know them and let them get to know me. It wasn’t a new concept. The forum I had moderated for my daughter prior to that had a section for politics and religion, but it also had a section for silly games we would play together. Those games helped us relate, helped us remember that it was a person on the other side of the screen we were talking to. These things reminded us too that there were a lot of folks watching from the shadows, not engaging in the conversation, but paying attention to who we were.
Facebook was no different, other than it had a broader reach, and the possibility for much stronger impact. In 2012 or so when I started focusing less and less on politics and more and more on God, Facebook became something even more. It became one of the most amazing tools God has handed to His children for spreading the Gospel and sharing in community with one another all over the world. Strangely, my friends list really didn’t change a whole lot from the several hundred that built up over the years I was doing the radio show. Even as my focus shifted. But I discovered a strange thing in the crazy political season during and just after 2012. Grace is a powerful thing.
Because God started talking to me about this whole social media thing. He started revealing that I couldn’t spread His Gospel there if I didn’t behave as His ambassador in everything I did there, not just the stuff where I was talking about Him. He revealed that it diluted my witness if I didn’t keep my temper in check, or if I kept jumping into debates for the sole purpose of entertaining myself or my friends trying to win knock down drag out fights. He showed me it was necessary first to get my own attitude right, to seek to show grace, even if the conversation was one that necessitated correction or rebuke.
As I started focusing on that, an amazing thing happened. My wall got calmer. Conversations would still go on, sometimes even heated ones, but calming it usually only took a gentle reminder that God calls us to tame our tongues when we speak and that the world was watching to see how we, as Christians, handled conflict. Threads on my own wall, and elsewhere, would suddenly go from raging conflict to either dead stop or engaged conversation with nothing more than a reminder of whose we were. More than that, I noticed too that as I began getting in the habit of posting brief prayers, others I had come to know over the years were having their own epiphanies from God. Scripture started getting shared as much as politics. Prayers started being shared. God started being discussed.
Another thing my sister’s comment reminded me of was this. One of the greatest gifts these last few years on social media has given me was the opportunity to grow with some amazing people. I have celebrated with folks like Kira Davis, Wayne Dupree, Ayesha Kreutz and Darryl Petitt grew in their careers as political activists. I prayed with my friend Ron Miller when he was stuck on bed rest, and jumped for joy when he accepted his position as a Professor at Liberty University. My heart was uplifted as my friend Michael Cook, at a time when God was quieting my writing, began posting daily thoughts on Scripture. I praised God when my friend Tommy Davis got into his PhD program and when he and Providence Crowder began their chaplaincy program. I followed, worried a bit, and laughed a lot as I followed the sage of Max Lindenman in Turkey, and then back home and writing for Patheos.
Over all of these years, I, a periodic introvert, have had the honor of regularly being allowed to be a part of some 600+ people’s lives. I have prayed with them, mourned with them, laughed with them. I have celebrated weddings and birthdays and offered prayers and condolences in sicknesses and deaths. I have been blessed. Because God graced my life with hundreds of human beings. It was politics that brought many of us together, but it is the richness of our being human together that has filled my life with so much depth, hope and joy these past several years.
Tonight, my prayer for all of us, is that as we continue on through this election season, whoever we support and whatever comes after it, we remember who and whose we are. I hope we will each, tonight, take a few minutes to remember those moments that have connected us. Remember that it’s a person on the other end of the screen. Remember that that person is someone you’ve like, admired, celebrated with, prayed with, who’s prayed for you. Remember that when all is said and done, no matter our disagreements, justified or otherwise, we are called to grace. And remember too, the world is watching, waiting to see what it looks like when we live and share the hope we have in all we do. Thanks Jennifer, for the reminder.
Be blessed and be a blessing.