Rest for a Weary Soul

I’d like to introduce you to my friend John.

I went to university with John. We had the same major and I shared a class or two with him. He was also a fellow music-minded person and was in my choir for several years. He was a “small chat” kind of friend and our conversations never much got past the weather, classes and events around us.

He was quiet, studious, easy-going.

We graduated the same year and went our separate ways.

He moved to Ohio. I returned to Australia.

I found him on Twitter about 10 years ago and followed him. I started having conversations with him about the usual–weather, old school days, current events.

He would recommend me websites, sermons, books–I think he thought I was a lost soul his mission was to convert. Sometimes he did so gently; other times he was not dissimilar to a street preacher with fire and fury.

Come to find out he had married but was now divorced. He had been working for a Christian publishing company but lost his job. I joked with him when his suburb, Euclid, hit the news in Australia as the global financial downturn hit the area hard. His house wasn’t worth a fraction of what he still owed on it.

He had applied for several jobs–I remember one at Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter which he was particularly hoping he would be offered, but wasn’t. I’m not sure if he ever was successful in regaining solid employment.

His politics were far right. He stood for everything I didn’t. His remarks to those who believed contrary to him were caustic. He was highly intelligent, but quite narrowly-focused in his thinking.

We parted ways around 6 years ago when he unfriended me on Facebook and lost interest in Twitter. This happened after a particularly bitter tirade about politics and how, in his opinion, nobody who called themselves a Christian could vote for a Muslim, foreign-born president, especially for one who killed babies.

That was the kind of person he was.

Today I was looking through my Facebook account and saw that we had both liked Bryan Duncan (former lead of the Sweet Comfort Band and a chart-topping CCM artist of the 80s). Just for old times’ sake, I clicked on his profile pic and scrolled down his newsfeed.

And then I stopped in disbelief at a comment made on his latest Cruz2016/NeverTrump-branded profile pic:

“RIP my friend.”

Obviously, others had the same bewilderment as I.

“What are you talking about?” was one response.

“John committed suicide.”

Oh man! Really?

Evidently, life became too much for my friend. I don’t know the circumstances he faced nor the pressures that he felt every day. I have no idea how he dealt with his past and how he reconciled is ultra-Calvinism with the apparent out-of-control world around him.

I really didn’t know him that well.

I don’t know if, given a reboot, I would have taken the chance to understand him more. We were poles apart.

hAYNESBut he was a good man and a beloved child of God. It is obviously that he touched many lives and will be missed by the same. His family grieve as all those in loss grieve.

Regardless of what drove my friend to take his own life in what should have been his prime years is beyond me. God knows.

He is at rest now. This tortured soul as found peace. Whatever his politics, religion or societal status, he has been embraced by everlasting Love.

Rest in peace.

*  *  *  *  *

For those who struggle with thoughts of self-harm or suicide, there is help.

Lifeline (Australia) 13 11 14

Beyond Blue (Australia) 1300 659 467

Suicide Prevention Line (USA) 1-800-784-2433

 

Facebook Me and Real Me

facebookThis morning in our Sunday gathering, Mike was taking us through the gospel terminology used in the New Testament book of Galatians. While explaining the term ‘righteousness,’ he made mention of the way we see ourselves against the way we want people to see ourselves, using as an example Facebook.

It is obvious that the stuff we put on Facebook is filtered reality–it’s what we want others to see in us. We try to build an identity so when people look at our page, they see the person who is better, more confident, more positive than we are in real life.

We want to appear more ‘righteous’ than we really are.

I know it’s hard to believe, but that’s exactly what I do. I know how I am and, in the words of someone whose name escapes me at the moment John Powell (see, I don’t have such a perfect memory either!), “I am afraid to tell you who I am because, if I tell you who I really am, you may not like me.”

I’d like to think I’m getting past that (insert ‘You know when you’re getting old’ joke here).

Truth is, I’m not . . . not as much as I would like to. I care about what you think about me. I try to present myself as clever, deep, spiritual (but not with my head in the clouds), active, mostly positive, involved, compassionate, controlled, massively ripped (OK, maybe that’s too obvious an exaggeration) . . . and I am all those things to some degree (except for my abs, alas!).

But I’m also short-sighted, stubborn, proud, intolerant, and sometimes downright unkind.

I am not as ‘balanced’ as I appear on my Facebook page (Those who know me well, say ‘Amen!’ but stay away from the ‘mental’ references, please).

I lean more to the left than I present myself to be. (Onya, Barack!) I’m not ashamed of my progressive (or what some may call ‘liberal’) leanings, but I know some of my friends are not at the same point on their journey. For the sake of those whom I know (hope?) will one day see things differently, I temper my comments, I filter my reactions, I watch which pages I ‘Like’ because I know they can see everything I do on my timeline.

I love my family and I’m really proud of who they are and what they’ve accomplished, but I never post a status of how sometimes they aren’t as awesome as I’d like them to be (or I’m not as awesome to them as I like myself to be–more like it).

I comment when I feel it is safe to do so. I weigh my responses to others’ posts about the hot button issues in the world today.

Is that a lie? After all, I’m not saying that I’m fully on one side or the other . . . the intention of my social media presence is not to be an activist . . . . my family might see it . . . you may misunderstand my intentions . . . I may get cornered after Church by people whom I really care about and love who want to show me how much they love me in return . . . I could get in trouble at work (um, wait! That’s right, they’re Anglican and are used to accepting all sorts of people–balanced and otherwise).

Or should I be more honest and vulnerable and show my true colours, my heart, the way I see the world, people, and God?

St Paul is known to have coined the phrase, “I have become all things to all men . . .” Surely this is what got him in trouble on more than one occasion. Is it worth it?

Well, I guess that you now know who I am, I’d better do the best thing by all of us . . .

. . . I’ll just have to de-friend you.

FOMO

I was listening to Triple J on the drive home last night and Liam Finn (nephew of Neil Finn of Crowded House fame) was a guest on the show. He was introducing his latest album, FOMO, which, he said, was filled with songs written from a perspective of his own life and the pressure he felt when returning to New Zealand from his busy concert and recording period abroad.

He found that, while being away from the high-tech, high-speed life of the big city was good for him in a recharge/refresh sense, he would go to bed and sleep would escape him because he had become so accustomed  to doing things, going places, and seeing people every day. He had become fearful of missing out on life . Hence the title of his album is an acronym for “Fear of Missing Out.”

I wonder if that is the reason why this generation has taken to social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr.  Afraid we might miss out on something, we have tied ourselves to checking our mobile phones or computer screens all too frequently to see what our friends (or twiends!) are up to, who they’re with, where they are, and what they’re feeling. Then we must update our status to let them know the same about us. When we’re not “connected” we feel like we’re missing out in some way on what’s happening in our world.

Many people do this in other ways: being engrossed in hearing or reading the latest news from CNN, NineMSN or NewsRadio. Some feel compelled to keep track of sport or weather. Media outlets dedicated to keeping the public informed  rely on this for their livelihood every day. Maybe a story will break and I won’t know because I didn’t subscribe to the right RSS feed, turned off the TV or radio, or check in on the website that has all the latest details and video footage. . . .

How much does FOMO keep you and I from enjoying—genuinely relishing—the present moment? Does this FOMO make us jealous? Anxious? Envious of someone else’s lot in life at the moment? When we update our status, are we unconsciously attempting to paint our life so our friends will think they’re missing out on something?

Last night I made a decision to take a leave-of-absence from Facebook for a while. Those who know me know that I am a frequent user and, often, it may seem that I’m addicted. So I thought I’d see what happens if I make a break for a time. Some things may still appear on my Facebook status (like these blog post links and places I visit/like on the web), but I won’t be checking my messages, updating my status, or looking at anyone else’s status or pages for a while. I’m not sure how long this experiment will last—it may well result in my leaving the social media altogether. Regardless, I’m hoping it will bring some much-needed perspective and help me to spend time on areas of my life where right now I can see I’m missing out.

I’m not saying this is something we all should embrace, but for me I need to cast out the demon of FOMO and live in the moment, every moment.

Liam Finn mentioned on his interview that, while he got over this fear of missing out, this episode in his life brought the present into focus in a more real and meaningful way. To some extent, I think that’s something we all need.

Secrets

Everyone has secrets.

Everyone is keeping secrets.

Some are brave enough to tell one now and then, but the decision to do so is weighed and internally debated, sometimes in great angst and anguish, before the revelation.

Some, like Wikileaks, become top headlines and cause international concern and criticism. Others–most–lie deep within the hidden parts of our own minds and hearts, shut away in a dark room where they are not likely to be disturbed, or remembered. . . .

Everyone has secrets. Whether or not we choose to tell them is another story.

Anonymity is a great friend of secret-telling, especially if the revelation could split your world apart.

TellingSecrets.org is one of many sites on the Internet that survive on anonymous confessions. Things like a secret hatred of someone else, office gossip, affairs and sexual encounters, thoughts of revenge, suicide, deeds of deepest personal shame or betrayal . . . the list goes on and on. (And it makes for interesting reading.)

What is the great fear in revealing the truth that is hidden inside of me?

I think that the greatest fear is that, if I let my secret out, people will think less of me–or shun me altogether. And (most of the time) I would rather hide my truth than risk my relationships and support structures falling apart.

Another reason for clamming up is that I don’t want to disappoint others, especially those close to me.

Imagine the teenager who comes home and reveals to her mother, ‘I’m pregnant.’ Or the young man who opens up to his family with, ‘I’m gay.’ Then there’s the pastor who tells his congregation, ‘I don’t believe this anymore.’ The politician who decides that enough is enough and forsakes the party line. Whether it’s family, friends, our community or constituency, we as people created for relationship, do not want to disappoint.

I also think there is an element of ‘I don’t want to rock the boat,’ or, ‘I just want to keep the peace.’ This is prevalent in community groups, workplaces, schools, churches, or other organisations. I realise that if I tell my secret, it will ‘open a can of worms’ in the organisation. It will stir the status quo and may result in rumours, innuendo, judgement, criticism, and potentially me being ostracised from the group.

You just need to look at Facebook to see numerous examples of people being ‘defriended’ (or in Twitter, ‘unfollowed’) over a statemnet that was made or over the misunderstanding of a post. Or a group may be created over a common dislike of a ‘traitor’ or betrayer of trust. The judgement falls quickly in any social media circle, but usually without so much as a phone call or email to ask what the real intent was.

I remember hearing Bill Hybels say that in community we have many needs that need to be met. Two of these needs are to know and be known, and to love and be loved. I think these two are mutually inclusive. We can’t truly love unless we truly know and we can’t truly know unless we understand that we are truly (and unconditionally) loved.

Perhaps this is a dream, but it is one worth chasing. Imagine what a weight would be lifted off of our hearts if we knew that, regardless of how we felt, believed, understood, experienced, or how we hurt, those alongside of us would openly, confidently, and sincerely support, validate, and be agents of healing as we laid bare the secrets held so close.

Until that time, places like TellingSecrets.org will be filled with dark pieces of people’s lives, regrets, confessions, fears, and sad tales they wish they could share freely . . . longing to receive forgiveness, healing and love.

May God grant me the grace to receive what those close to me share without judgement, with genuine love and understanding, and in full validation and acceptance of them as a person, a child of God, and a fellow companion on the journey.

Social Media & the Church

This is possibly the best post I’ve read about the influence of social media and the influence of the Church in this tech-energised generation.

Here’s a snippet from The Oblivious Boycott- Ignore The Social:

“The hope, encouragement, training and life transformation we have to offer through the local church is as relevant now as it ever has been. That doesn’t need to change.  We just make it too hard for people to engage in the story. Worse? We’re not even in the environments where conversations are already happening. Last week, someone left this comment on my blog:

“‘Pull the computer out of the wall, and go out into your community. Shake some hands, learn some names, invest actual time in people and earn the right to be heard. That’s how you minister to your community, not by eavesdropping on what they’re saying on Twitter.’

“Maybe you don’t agree with this point of view, but I’ll bet you know someone who does and you don’t know how to convince them otherwise. We all hear the hub-bub about how the internet is making us stupid. Or, how people need to get a life and turn off the computer.

Ignoring the social is a fast pass to unhealthy and completely out of touch.

“These virtual communities and spontaneous new social structures are increasingly becoming some of the most important places to “earn the right to be heard.” When we listen, learn about and acknowledge people in their online spaces, we are developing relational collateral for offline space.

As we begin our voyage into relevance, here are some pointers.

“The internet isn’t any more of a cop-out to real life than a car is to walking. A healthy reality doesn’t embrace all or nothing. I like how Phil Cooke puts it in his book, Branding Faith; “Like most areas of life, the greatest dangers often come out of the strongest positives. And we don’t stop using good accounting principles because of the bookkeeping abuses of Enron.” A change in approach starts with a change in mindset. Our communication efforts will be exponentially more effective if we fine-tune our M.O.—online and off.”

Read more here.

This is part of a web presence called Shrink the Church, a blog well worth reading. Here are a few more interesting tidbits from this site:

5 Ways To Cultivate A Crippling And Irrational Fear Of Muslims (The comments are an interesting conversation in themselves.)

Can you spot Jesus amongst the 2010 FIFA World Cup players?

Spotting Jesus At The World Cup (see picture)

My Church Can Beat Up Your Church

8 Things The Super Mario Brothers Can Teach Us About Our Faith

Everything’s Amazing…You Don’t Want To Miss It! (Hyper-promoting, Yeah!!!)

Conversations

Today on Facebook I ‘hosted’ (by default) a vigorous conversation about the Bible, homosexuality, and Emergent. I say by default because it was a prolonged response to my status update (a McLaren quote) and there were some well-thought, lengthy responses. I was impressed how well those involved seemed to articulate their understanding of these issues.

In the end, it was a conversation definitely worth having, although it would be better in person (if we could keep our emotions in check). Therefore, I was disappointed when one of those involved pulled out of it by telling everyone ‘The conversation isn’t even worth having.’

Every conversation is worth having. There is always something we can learn if we are open to the understandings of others. Then there is also the sense of community which a conversation brings, even when it is online over great distances.

But then, I suppose I sometimes get to a point when I really haven’t the energy to listen or when it seems to me that we are talking in circles. I would hope that I could bow out of such a dialogue graciously, leaving the door open for further connections at a more appropriate time.