The internet is a “world” that we live in, though certainly different from the one whose streets we normally walk. I look out across the internet, and see so many different types of people. Some are guarded, and others are funny. some have an air of seriousness about them, and a few people let themselves be exposed right to the bone. I see lots of, “life is great”, “God has blessed me”, and “everything is awesome!” Even the ones that lay out their lives for others to see so that they may see themselves in it and be comforted and helped, seem to carry their burdens with a measure of strength that appears to say, “yes, I’m a mess, but I’m a neat mess.” It’s more likely I’m reading it through my own messier mess.
Maybe it’s the distance between computers, the coldness of the keys as they type one message after another. I read your words, and try to make them real to the only picture(s) I may ever see. I hear your hurts, and try to envision a personality that might best suit you. I don’t think any one of you are perfect (I hope that came out right), but that distance between a person and their words leaves a gap that makes you wonder what they are really like. Even after all that, I know it could never fully take the place of living, breathing closeness, though at times knowing someone is always around does help.
I know the real feeling of a hearty roar of laughter could never be replaced by a ROFL or an LOL. The hurts displayed on phone screen could never be completely comforted by a “Sad Face” reply as much as a strong hug and real tears of empathy. This doesn’t mean that I don’t want to fly to Vegas to share a beer, or drive to Ohio for a chat in front of a fire. I see real relationships being formed across the keyboards. Not the, “my life would be better if I ran away from home with this person”, that often shipwrecks people’s real life relationships, but the real connections of life that every friendship and kinship starts with, develops, and matures into. I have also had the opportunity, to see these online communities come together at conferences, and it was very much like an odd reunion of people who’ve never met. It’s both fascinating, and a joy at the same time. We’ve gone beyond, “those aren’t real relationships” to, “it’s as real as anything else.” But again, there is still nothing like a real handshake, hug or kiss. There is something about the smell of barbecue or the clink of another’s glass. I look forward to more of that in the future.
I look forward to that, and to the day that I don’t have to “pretend” to really know God. When I say pretend, I am not saying I fake it, but it feels that way sometimes. Chalk that up to bad teachings that sometimes stress feelings above truth.
One of my biggest “problems” in church was that my relationship with God always seem to be regulated to his Word. I never got a “sense” of his presence or a “feeling” of his nearness. I never felt answers or words come into my head. I got nothing that was a physical demonstration of God. I won’t begrudge anyone that does. That’s a discussion for another day. I just don’t have those things. I have had God answer prayers, and I count it as him working supernaturally, but the answer usually came by using very normal or natural means. Whether intentional or not, you get the sense from others that you don’t have that closeness with God because of those things. “You’re limiting him”, “putting him in a box”, “Your not stepping out and stretching your faith,” “Open your mouth, tongues will come.” Answers like that, whether intended or not, put you in the remedial class of God. It reminds me of those relationships across the internet that people say aren’t real. “Your chatting with strangers.” “You need to get up, go outside and meet people, REAL PEOPLE.” I wonder what the introvert or the phobia-addled person believes about that. This might be a boon to their relationships in comparison to 20 years ago.
So, with many of you out across the internet divide, I have mostly words. Good words. Meaningful words. Encouraging words. I have words that make me weep with you (Sad Face) and Laugh.(LOL). I have real relationships with every one of you to varying degrees and that relationship is mostly worked out through the words that appear across my screen. It’s also true that when I have nothing else, I have God’s Word. The words that he has been speaking to us for a very long time. The words that never change and never grow old. The words that always mean what they say, even if we try to change their meaning. They are the words I sometimes fail to read and also read without end. They are words that are completely honest with me and my condition. They tell me I am weak and sinful. These words are truer and more helpful than any real world counselor or therapist because they tell me I am apart from God and in need of help. These words also tell me that there is a rescue from my condition. These words tell me that I have been clothed in perfection by the One who is perfect. I am told by these words that I CAN be weak and lowly and struggle because there is a strength that comes from outside of us to carry us to the finish line. They are the words that say, “I am His, I am loved and I am forgiven.” So if I “feel” nothing for the rest of my life, I have the words that say, “I have purchased you”. When I feel depressed, I have the words that say, “I am your hope.” When I am tossed about by life, I have the words that say, “I am your rock and will keep you anchored.” When I am dying, I have the words that say, “for no other reason than but for the fact that I have purchased your life with the blood of Christ, I say to you, well done good and faithful servant, and today you will be with me in paradise. “
I am thankful for words. I am thankful to get to know you all by your words and I am thankful to Christ whom I know and am known by His Word.