A few weeks ago, I did something I never should have done. I sent an email.
But it wasn’t just any email. Perhaps you’ve done it before. You receive an email, and before you have time to think or pray, the next thing you know you are writing an emotional response as a knee-jerk reaction. Sometimes you catch yourself and realize that perhaps you should take some extra time to think about it before you hit “send”, and when you come back to it hours or days later, you feel complete and utter relief that you didn’t send it. That’s what I should have done. But I didn’t.
I hit “send”.
The conviction didn’t come right away. I sent it and forgot about it, for the most part. But when, five days later, the response came back to my negative, prideful missive, suddenly the conviction hit me like a ton of bricks. The unsuspecting recipient of my impulsive email had actually responded in a fairly gracious manner, but in that moment, I knew exactly where I had gone wrong.
I blame Facebook.
Well, that’s not totally fair. I actually blame the fact that I had allowed Facebook to become an idol in my life. Let me explain. Over the last few years, I have been more determined than ever to have a disciplined time of meeting with the Lord each morning. It looks a little bit different every day, but usually involves me setting my alarm at a painful oh-dark-thirty in order to get that time in before having to wake my kids up for the early school bus. I developed this habit with more discipline than ever after my son Caleb was born, because I found that my days were so difficult caring my for my little boy with extreme global developmental delays and sensory issues that I absolutely depended on that time with the Lord to give me what I needed to make it through the day without going completely nuts. However, over the last few months, I’ve been letting that time slide. It started subtly – I would peruse Facebook on my phone while in the bathroom before starting my quiet time. (I realize this is more than you really wanted to know, but it’s essential to telling the true story.) Next thing you know, I had wasted so much time in the bathroom getting caught up with the fascinating world of Facebook that I had run out of time to spend with the Lord. How quickly those precious moments ran out, after which I had nothing of value to show for them. I started staying up later than I knew was good for me and deciding to sleep a “little” later the next morning – just to catch up on sleep, just this once. But the tiny amount of time I had allotted for myself to spend with the Lord that morning got sucked up with – you guessed it – Facebook. Before I knew it, I was feeling extremely connected with everybody I cared about – and many that I didn’t – except for One. The Most Important One.
I was lying to myself and telling myself that I was getting up early for my quiet time – but then I would let technology and social networking steal that time away. As a result, I began to feel like a ship without a rudder. I started to feel out of touch with the daily promptings of the Holy Spirit. When decisions needed to be made, I struggled to discern the right path. When a difficult situation called for extra patience, I ran out – because my cup was being emptied each day and I was desperate for a refill. When a family member needed grace, they didn’t get it from me…because I wasn’t receiving it from my Source each day.
All of this hit me that day like a head-on collision with a brick wall. I realized that without checking in with God each morning and cultivating that sweet relationship with his Holy Spirit on a daily basis, I was sabotaging my own attempts to live a godly life that brought glory to God. Before I hit “send” on that email, I should have been utterly convinced that it was what God wanted me to do (particularly since I referred to what I thought God was telling me in the actual email). Instead, it was something that came from Courtney’s sinful impulses, not from the mind of God. The Lord reminded me about Romans 12:2: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” By allowing the “pattern” of Facebook to be ever-present in my consciousness, I was no longer being intentional about what I put into my mind, and in fact I was unintentionally conforming to the world. It’s no wonder that I sent an email full of pride, presumption, and negativity…I was not renewing my mind on a daily basis and being transformed by God’s word and Holy Spirit.
I once heard “idol” defined as anything that takes my allegiance, time, or worship away from God. Did I set out at the beginning to create an idol for myself that would take God’s place? Of course not. It happened slowly, bit by bit, choice by choice, as I began to let other things creep into my time that was reserved for God alone. Because, you see, not only did Facebook creep into those once-sacred early morning hours, but it slowly became an “escape” at all other hours of the day as well. God reminded me that only He should be my “escape”! The Psalms are full of verses about God being our refuge, our shelter, our deliverer. Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Can you imagine the hopelessness you would feel if that verse read, “Facebook is our refuge and strength.” What a faulty, disappointing refuge that would be!
You may feel that this is a lot of drama about one little email. But that one little email scared me. It was a window into what I would be like without regularly feasting on God’s word and checking in with the Holy Spirit. So, once the weight of conviction hit me, I went to my knees and humbled myself before the Lord. I asked his forgiveness and claimed it. But I wasn’t allowed to stop there. The Lord humbled me further by sending me to the two different people who had been affected by this email. I had to ask their forgiveness (amid many tears), admit that I’d been prideful and impulsive, and tell them that I wished I could take back what had been said. It was too late for that, but thankfully they both extended me grace and forgiveness. The Lord used this experience to discipline me and show me where I had fallen into a pattern of sin and conforming to the world.
Every minute of the day I have the choice about what I put in my mind: something that is life-giving, or something that is not.
I resolved that day to remove myself indefinitely from Facebook. What I’ve been putting into my mind and heart instead has been life-giving Bible reading, Spirit-led prayer, and refreshing worship music. The difference it’s made to be intentional about what I put in my mind is astounding. When situations come up that take me by surprise, somehow I’m better able to handle them in a Christ-like way because I’ve recently spent time plugged in to my Source of power, wisdom, discernment, and patience.
Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. – Psalm 34:8
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ – Matthew 22:37