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Sunday, February 7, 2016

Dear Christians: Life is messy...and God wants us to be right in the thick of it

Many times as of late, I'll read complaints about the "lack of love" and "overwhelming negativity" in certain social settings and media.  Facebook is often the culprit.  From complaints by individuals to news outlets talking about "breaks from Facebook" to even studies showing the supposed negative health impact of Facebook, the social media platform is often used as a scapegoat for the stress one has in their lives.  And while I'll not deny that Facebook can cause stress, I do think it's a mistake, particularly for Christians, to completely disengage from it simply because of a perceived lack of love and overwhelming negativity in their news feed.

Why?  Because life is messy.  Most Christian adults have a sense of how people should act according to the Bible and they personally strive to be as Christ like as possible.  There's a certain amount of decency, common sense, respect and tact that someone expects not only out of themselves, but out of others as well.  But then, lo and behold, someone doesn't meet that expectation.  Not only do they not meet the expectation, they may have set an embarrassing new low for their behavior.  And it creates drama.  Then that drama spawns more drama as more people get upset that someone else shattered or sunk their behavioral expectations.  Next thing you know, you have a perpetuating cacophony of negativity and mean emotions flying about.  And it all could have been prevented, or at least mitigated, if those people with their negative, loveless behavior would just grow up!

Except that realization often times never happens.  And it's because people are flawed and broken and will make mistakes - even mistakes where they should know better or are even aware what they're doing is quite right. In other words, people make social messes all the time.  Even if everyone knew and agreed with what's the right and wrong things to do, there would still be messes because no one is perfect and they will make mistakes, even when they strive to not make them!

While it is a noble pursuit to be more Christ like and it's definitely not ok to act in an uncouth, negative or loveless manner, to be genuinely offended or upset when someone else doesn't meet that expectation is simply inviting a never ending stream of stress into their lives.  But more importantly, to disengage from this environment because of the stress is doing you, and God's kingdom, a disservice.

You see, God wants us to connect with people...even those people who air their dirty laundry on Facebook, get combative with their relatives, or generally be negative in the content they post.  He wants us to get "in the trenches" and meet people where they are.  And you can't do that if you disengage from the social landscape.  And speaking of social landscape, if your ideal social landscape is an aloof pristine, easily mowed lawn complete with a "STAY OFF" sign, then you're doing it wrong.  Life's social landscape is more like nature untouched by man.  It's messy, inconsistent, lopsided, non symmetrical, sticky, rough, seemingly random and uncaring of what you want it to be.  Sounds great right?  No, not really.  But that's where we're going to make the connections.

And when it comes to messy and unpredictable, how we make those connections are just as messy.  See, our position in the social landscape, where God has placed us, is unique.  Where we're at and the skills and gifts we have mean we will make connections differently. Even someone in the same "place" in the social landscape will make connections differently because they have a different set of skills and gifts.

This is why it's a mistake to disengage.  God placed us where we are for a reason.  No, it doesn't mean we have to fight every battle or speak up on everything that grabs our attention.  But we DO need to do is come in with a servant, humble attitude and expect that things will get messy.  The brilliant part is if you're connected with God, then the dreaded stress from navigating a messy social landscape is lifted! Give it to Him!  All that's needed from you is to do His will. You might not see the fruits of your deeds and your deeds might not even yield the fruits you're expecting.  But that's ok!  Trust that God knows what He's doing.  Give Him the stress and the weariness.

Life's messy social landscape is tiresome.  We don't want it to be and can get frustrated when people don't act like they should. We will get worn out.  We will get tired.  Things won't go the way we want or expect them to.  That doesn't mean we shouldn't be there.  Thankfully, we have a God that can lend His strength and lift our burdens.  He wants us to be in there and love people - especially when they're spouting negative, loveless words.

So when you've had enough with Facebook, or any type of stressful social environment, don't disengage.  Instead, give your burdens to God, ask for strength and embrace life's messy social landscape. It's where we as Christians should be.