Today has been rough. My kids got up before 5:30 this morning, so I did, except I went to bed much later, crying. People can be ruthless on the internet. It doesn’t bother me when people who I don’t know take a swing at me, but the people I do know, like really thought I knew, well, that stings. Today I had a bunch to do and most of it never got done. I’m emotionally tapped, too exhausted to sleep, and wishing I could turn off my heart. But I can’t. And that is good. Pain is a good thing, it means you are alive. It is better to feel than to feel nothing at all. Enduring a trial means that God loves you, He is paying attention and He isn’t going to leave you alone.
Sometimes it is especially difficult for me to fight off unrighteous anger in my heart. The older I get, the more I understand why the rest of the world hates Christians. And I hate that. Generally, we are bossy know it alls. We are the Egyptians who ask the masses to trust God instead of humbly offering our time, our love, our ability to validate them as people made in the image of God. We are asking them to make bricks without straw.
I’d tell you over and over again that I am a Christian, that I’ve watched myself change in ways I can’t explain, I’ve become more tenderhearted, more teachable, calmer, never perfect but always learning. That’s part of the reason I love helping people online, they are more willing to ask you for prayer when they don’t have to see you. And I get that. In the dark of night, when you can’t sleep, you’d feel really awful about calling someone, but shooting them a message, well, that isn’t rude at all. But for people who don’t really need help, who are only looking to thumbs up what they agree about, I feel used by people like that. If I’m not encouraging them, if I don’t make them feel good, they put up walls. Can you even imagine the kind of names I get called, how many Christians have told me that I am not a Christian because they didn’t agree with something I said? You think comment threads are bad? Imagine what comments aren’t let through. People are mean and while Christians aren’t perfect, we should, at the very least, try to make a conscious effort to love others.
Once when I was in my tweens, my best friend told a lie to her mom. The lie she told was that I had said something disrespectful about my mama. Her mom believed her and told my mama. I know parents make mistakes, but my mom believed my bestie and it was devastating. I’d had really close friends before her, but they always moved away or something else would tear us apart. The funny part was, that while my mom taking her side was painful, it didn’t crush me. My relationship with my parents has never been ideal. I suppose it didn’t really surprise me. But my friend, the one I’d stayed up during sleepovers with talking about our hopes and dreams. We got our first training bras together. We even worked together in my mom’s store and once, when we thought a burglar was outside, we helped one another find weapons, just in case. I still don’t know why she lied. It still cuts, the betrayal, I mean. The girlish drama has been long since overcome. But when you find out a friend really isn’t one, it makes someone like me question my worthwhileness.
Later in life, another friend pulled me aside to give me an ultimatum. She didn’t like the kind Christian I’d become, so she said that if I didn’t change, we couldn’t be friends anymore. She didn’t confront me over sin, she just communicated that her annoyance with me was greater than her love of me. Again, someone I thought could have been very close, we were getting there. But there it was. It cut deep and again the “why am I so horrible” questions came.
More recently, a friend really let me down . It is an annoying thing, but what is the worst part, is that she refused to see her contribution to the problem. She is pointing her finger at me. I now know that trusted her too much. Maybe I should have been more on guard, but that isn’t friendship. And now I see, she wasn’t as interested in being a blessing so much as completing her obligation. That or maybe she just doesn’t know how to take responsibility for her actions. It sucks and now I beat myself up because my kid is paying the price for something I could have protected her from. Bad Mom is the banshee screeching in my head and I know that part of it is true. I’m overwhelmed and my head doesn’t work normally, I know that I’m not the mom my kids deserve. That is why I needed help in the first place.
I know I’m not the only person like this. The emails I get testify to that. I’m no victim, but I do have baggage. Everyone does. It’s just that it takes some of us longer to process and work through our trials. It’s why I go to counseling, it’s why I take medicine — so I can learn to overcome this crushing pain and be a better wife, a better mom, a better friend, a more helpful person.Of course, my husband and precious authentic friends encourage and pray for me during these times. They get it. They get it because they really know me. The call me out in private because they know that I really do care and because they aren’t interested in stating their opinion so much as they are invested in me as a sister in Christ. They want to help me, not merely make their point. Other times, they realize that I am human, fallen, and I don’t have it all together, but they know that they don’t either — so we all weigh pros and cons and remember that friendship is a two-way street and if it isn’t work, then you are doing it wrong. And when they are confused, if something they hear me say doesn’t match up with who they know I am, they don’t get aggressive. They are gracious and kind. In short, they are friends and I do my best to be a real friend to them. This is what friendship looks like. Sacrificing ourselves to someone else, pouring out love and validation (remember validation is not the same thing as affirmation). You don’t let go of friends like that. They are a rare blessing. I have to wonder how many people have never experienced that. Has never experienced friendship become a case of diminish and return? We haven’t had a relationship like that so we can’t gauge what a real friendship would be like and we don’t know how so we can’t offer it? I count myself very fortunate that I have had several. God is merciful to the weak.
But people on the internet aren’t usually genuine friends. With 300 FB friends, how many of them love you in more than an acquaintance kind of way? I don’t think it is intentional that we tend to fall short when it comes to friendship. But it’s extra hard on the internet, isn’t it? It is easy to forget that just because you read a blog or follow a facebook page or belong in the same group, that you don’t really know that person. I’ve been criticized in the past for talking too much about my struggles publically, which I just laugh at, not cynically, genuine, perhaps with a tinge of insanity slipping in. You gotta laugh at yourself, at life, and uncomfortable situations. If they only knew about the ones I don’t share.
So why do I write about personal stuff? I write because it helps me to look at things from outside myself and often helps others, too. It is healthy. My husband and my therapist encourage me to keep writing. I’m not writing bad stuff. Even when I form ideas that make people uncomfortable. I don’t write for those people. My opinions are just that, most of it is pretty stupid stuff, ideas, discussion. It doesn’t really matter. It is an excuse to try and connect with people, to learn more about them and to think outside the box. I try to warn people if I’m going to say something they probably won’t like, but they still read on. I’ll never know why for sure. I’ll admit it right out that I don’t like taking sides, I think people are too quick to jump into herd mentalities, not just Christians and not just on the internet. Flash Mob Cliques, if only all they did was dance on the subway.
I’ve been a part of social media for more than half my life and the one thing that never, ever changes, is the pride of the people behind the computer. We all want to feel like we are right and to do that, we often must shut down the possibility that maybe we could be wrong sometimes. But that makes us vulnerable, doesn’t it? Nobody likes feeling vulnerable. Not even me. So we delete old blog posts and facebook comments. We see ourselves as the hero instead of the villain in the story that unfolds. We hide behind the possibility of misunderstanding instead of confronting it like an adult and taking the time to work it out. The internet gives you that luxury. It isn’t like a face to face conversation, where you can’t take back what you said, where you are obligated to respond. I think it makes us all lazy, myself included. The result is that people, people who have been trained to always feel guilty, to feel crazy, to feel worthless — well, we end up tiptoeing around, qualifying everything and desperately trying not to be misunderstood and it only seems to make it worse. But here is the gospel truth: my Christian brothers and sisters, we all agree on 90% of the fundamentals. I stand with them at peaceful pro-life rallies, I lift up the saints in pray along side them, we all go church, communing together in God’s house. It’s heartbreaking, isn’t it? When people risk hurting others over little things, knowing full well that they are all on the same team. We nitpick, we don’t support each other if we don’t feel they are doing to correctly, we don’t lift up half as much as we tear each other town.
“And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” -Mark 6:4
The apostle Paul had some choice words for people like that. I’ve seen pastors in do it, too. It’s incredible how afraid we are of being misunderstood and most of the time we don’t even realize it. We become unaware trolls, only thumbs up the stuff we agree with and making sure people know when we don’t approve.
Here is something I have been working on that might be helpful: write as unto God, bearing in mind what He has called you to do. Forget about everyone else, if you wouldn’t say what you were about to say before The King, don’t. He is with us where every we go.