I have really tried to become much more of a Hands Free Mama over the last few months, but now that my children are back in school I have seven hours a day with no one at home to hold me accountable. I have things to do, of course, but the schedule for doing so is quite flexible. My little black phone and my dingy white laptop often beckon me to come and escape for a little while.
I could certainly benefit from a bit more discipline and intentionality. I think I have linked to Jon Acuff's post before, but it is what first got me thinking about this simple truth: Before posting anything online always ask yourself "Why?"
In my own life, I think I would benefit from backing that up another step and asking this question before I even open up the phone or laptop.
In Scripture we are urged to allow God to examine our hearts. The beginning of wisdom and a life of intention is so often just pausing to examine our motives. My heart was prompted to sit down and make a checklist of sorts--a few questions it would behoove me to ask myself before I get online:
1. What am I really looking for?
I am frequently in search of facts or information. Other times I am lonely and looking for a bit of relational interaction. Still other times I am in need of inspiration or encouragement. While there can be pitfalls, there are also great sources for both online.
More often, going online with a warm cup of coffee by my side, it is like strolling through an endless bookstore, scanning covers, peeking in to read a bit here and there. Sometimes I am simply looking to escape, which leads to my next question.
2. Am I running away from something?
Time outs are healthy and productive sometimes, but if I am repeatedly running away from something or someone in my life, I should pause and take notice. Are there better places for me to run--like to an encouraging friend, to prayer, to Scripture, to my spouse?
3. Who/what am I cheating? Is it worth it?
Cheating is rough sounding word, isn't it? But it is true that every time we decide to do something, we are prioritizing it over other things. I quite often choose reading/writing/surfing over laundry, dishes and working out. I am also guilty of choosing it over playing with my children, spending time with my husband or taking that slice of time as an opportunity to encourage a friend.
The flip side of this point is that sometimes going online and reading something completely refocuses my attitude for the better. If I read something encouraging that I can pass along to others, it turns out to be a great investment of time. I have to remind myself that idle surfing for celebrity gossip does not fall into this category. :-)
We all need a break sometimes. I don't think God has a problem with rest or leisure. I just tend to personally get in trouble when this gets tilted too far at the expense of other things. Every investment of our time/energies and emotion (online or offline) has a cost. The key, for me, is to ask what I am doing online and if it is more important than other responsibilities.
4. Is this activity helpful to the character God is trying to build in me?
After visiting sites I have started to ask myself, do I leave this place feeling refreshed, encouraged, informed or discouraged and blah? It involves some prayer to see what that is really about in my heart--and discipline to seek more of the former and less of the latter.
Facebook is such a double-edged sword in my life. It can be a wonderful channel for staying in touch with people you don't see regularly. I love how easy it makes it to encourage, support and celebrate with people. I enjoy reading great articles and quotes people post and being entertained by the shenanigans of their pets & children. But we all know there is a downside too.
Ever had your feelings hurt and then gone on facebook to 'check on' that person? (Which usually leads to wallowing in your hurt instead of dealing with it and moving on.) Yeah, me neither. Ugh! Despite my love for Jesus, I still seem to revert to my 14 year old self from time to time. I am so ashamed when I fall into this trap. It is not pretty...and whatever momentary satisfaction I may have found in my juvenile behavior is not worth the sin hangover I feel afterwards.
As women who follow the Lord, we know better. The Spirit will not sit idly in a heart that belongs to Him. We will be convicted. The good news is that we can also be forgiven.
Facebook is not bad. It is a microcosm of life. The problem is not that website, it is my sinful heart. May we remember to surrender our online hearts to the Lord, just as we do in our offline life.
5. Going back to Jon Acuff's post, before posting, what's the point?
Am I looking for acceptance? Approval? Encouragement? It is NOT wrong to seek these things. We are human beings wired for relationship and community. I just find in my own life it is good to ask myself what is really going on beneath the surface. This allows me to let God deal with it before it becomes a big deal/downfall.
Am I stirring the pot? Insulting? Bragging? It is a fine line sometimes in bragging versus celebrating. Only the person posting knows for sure.
As sinful people, it is very difficult for our motives to ever be completely pure. I was reminded in a Bible Study at church last week that every decision we make as followers of Christ either draws people closer to Him or pushes them further away. That thought alone makes it worth pausing to ask myself some questions.
Lastly, I want to remain realistic. I am a broken sinner in need of grace. I am human. Sometimes I just want to zone out or read something that gives my over-thinking brain a rest. Other times I am bored or in need of a laugh. It is OK to be in the world, but we are charged to not be of it. The online world needs salt and light, love, encouragement, wholesome laughter and a reflection of Christ.
It is so tempting to embrace You as our Savior, our Comforter, our Redeemer and then hide our lives away from your lordship. I invite you again to be the LORD of my life, online and offline.
Search me. Know me. Strengthen me to be a woman after Your heart.
Here is another great post that influenced my thinking on this subject:
5 Questions Christians Should Ask Themselves Before Logging On