January was a pretty quiet month. Not in a global sense- you don't have to look or listen very far to sense that these are times of confusion and uncertainty for our world. But here in my corner of it, I have found myself in a time-out.
I attended a conference at our church a couple weeks ago about a pretty heavy and divisive issue. One of the quotes mentioned at that conference was this:
"We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God." - Thomas Merton
As a Christian, I believe that true peace only comes from a relationship with God. We can't know that kind of peace between ourselves and anyone else if we don't first have it within. Even still, I know it's both believers and non-believers who are at odds with one another. Opinions and beliefs about a myriad of topics are so polarized these days, it seems like the internet is a place where everyone is clamouring to have the loudest voice, the most politically correct opinion, the right to correct others and prove ourselves.
It's an amazing tool we can use to bring awareness to causes we're passionate about, and I know there are reams and reams of wonderful things that have conspired thanks to the fast and expansive reach of the internet. I am in no way anti- internet. But the overall climate of our culture doesn't always allow us the grace of working to reach a point of understanding when we are separated by screens. Sometimes social media seems like a breeding ground for assuming the worst about people we don't even (or do) know. The slightest subtleties in tone and intention can make deciphering written text near impossible. We can feel like someone is pitted against us when the same conversation that happens in person, face-to-face, could end amicably.
I want to believe that everyone is just doing the best they can. I want to listen first and speak second, I want to see every person as someone made in God's image. But the temptation to judge people when we only have a tiny piece of the overall picture of who they are or even what they're trying to express is real.
Earlier this week I made the decision to deactivate my Facebook account. I'd like to say it was an easy one, but it honestly filled me with some anxiety. I've spent so much of the last year trying to ask for more of God's peace in my life, and even though I sensed He was asking me to be willing to lay down the things that were standing in the way of spending time with Him, I couldn't seem to do it. I wanted His peace but I didn't want to endure the discomfort of breaking a habit, no matter how unrewarding that habit had gotten.
I feel like I've reached a turning point. I see the wedge that keeps getting driven between us as we desperately try to make just one more point about that issue we believe is a stark black and white to those who see it as a muddy shade of grey. I see how day after day I choose to consume the content of other people's lives because that's much easier than trying to quiet my mind and my soul enough to sit with my Bible and actually listen to what God may already be trying to tell me. I know that I can't pour out love to others if I don't first allow Him to fill me with His.
Social media is not inherently bad. The internet is not inherently bad. But when they start to take more than they give, I think it's important to ask ourselves if maybe there is a better way to spend our days.
So as I continue to reflect during this quiet, January time-out that I've carved out for myself, I'll leave you with this:
Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone's face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come. - Henri Nouwen