Confession Time

I have a confession:

 

I’m addicted to social media.

Not in the way many people seem to be, constantly checking to see if their posts have new likes or comments, seeking validation. I actually barely notice whether things I post get any response and don’t really mind if no one likes my photo or status update.

It seems that my problem is a combination of fear of missing out and a desire to obtain information and knowledge. For example, I may open the Facebook app to see if I have any notifications, any questions to answer (I have both a blog page and a business page and recently made a group to sell some of my Usborne), any updates from family members, etc. But whether I have notifications or not, I inevitably start the scroll. I’ve read about this behaviour before – you scroll down and your aunt has posted something about her dog, your neighbour posted an item for sale, your sister posted pictures of her kids. None of these things are new to you – they are sorted to the top by a particular algorithm – and so you keep scrolling.

In my case, I always feel this concern that I might miss something that someone posted that is important. What if my cousin or a good friend posts a pregnancy announcement and I don’t respond? What if a barbecue is posted for a really good price on Marketplace or a buy and sell group and I miss it? We need a new one and I wouldn’t want to miss a good deal! What if there is a new article or blog post that I haven’t seen before that will help me to better understand my kids, my faith, marriage or something else? So when the first five or six posts on my feed are old or not interesting to me, I scroll. Sometimes for a very long time. Then I catch myself doing it – this usually seems to happen without very much conscious thought – and I put my phone down. Time goes by – five minutes or even a few hours – and I pick up my phone again. The cycle starts over.

What amazes me is that I can and do go days without Facebook and do so without any anxiety over it or missing it at all. This is where it is not quite drug like for me – I don’t have withdrawals, rather I have a weight lifted off of me. I have less swirling thoughts in my head due to much less useless information landing there. I suspect that I could go weeks like this pretty easily.

But then I go back to “normal” (my Facebook free times happen most often when I am out of cell service for a few days or am doing a media fast) and as much as I want to be moderate in my use of it, I go back to the same habit. “Oh, I haven’t been on here in three days, I wonder what happened with that friend’s doctor’s appointment or my brother’s job?” And for some bizarre reason, I am more likely to scroll, scroll, scroll than I am to go straight to that person’s Facebook to find out what is happening with them. Like I think the answer is going to appear before me in my hours of daily scrolling.

At the moment, I have the Facebook app on my phone. I don’t remember exactly what happened to make me download it again after years of only using my phone browser to access Facebook but I do know that when I got it again, I set my “time on Facebook” reminder to two hours. So every day that I reach two hours on Facebook, the app alerts me. And I close the alert and keep scrolling.

So is the answer leaving Facebook completely? Sometimes I think so. But I live very far away from my family and it has been a good way to connect with all of them. Do I set rules for myself about how often and how long I check Facebook? Maybe that could work, but I’ve tried it before and found myself back to the same habits again.

For now, I start with this confession, and another one: I don’t like this and I want to stop. I know it clutters my thoughts, I know it distracts me from my work and the ability to be present for my kids. I know it steals time from God and His calling on my life. But I don’t totally know what to do about it.

Today I will start by deleting the app again. And trying to limit myself to checking Facebook on the computer, which does not hold the same scrolling appeal as my phone (anyone else agree with me here?). But what really needs to be done is addressing the root issue here. I have a need to know¬†that must be dealt with. My fear of missing out must be dealt with. So I will go to the Father and ask Him to show me how to do this. I pretend too often that He doesn’t care what my relationship is with social media but I know that is not true. I believe He mourns for the lost opportunities while I was distracted and that He has a greater plan for me than this.

If this has never been an issue for you and you are shocked by my confession and just can’t understand it, then this post was probably not for you. But if you are also tied to the scroll – on Facebook or some other platform – and can’t seem to break yourself free of this thing, now you know that you are not alone. Ask God how He wants you to fill your time each day. Ask Him what it is that you are missing that needs to be addressed so that you can find freedom from this. He is gracious and compassionate and quick to forgive us, and I know He has the answer.

Un-masked

Just wait, this has nothing to do with that kind of mask. I’m not going to get into that. Okay, read on.

 

For the last few weeks, this place has been filled with inspiration. I have written fluidly and have felt there was real meaning in what I was trying to say. Today I felt I should probably write something.

But what?

I have something important that I’m working on mentally but I’m not quite there yet, so not that.

Anything amusing to talk about? Not really.

I could talk about how I changed my hair colour again (it’s two colours now actually, split right down the middle), but I am so determined not to be shallow. Is it shallow to talk about dying my hair?

Maybe not. What if what should be said is that we really need to start taking off the mask? I wore one for a long time, one of a typical young mother, devoid of personality in what I wore or what I did with my hair or my face. To be clear, my face is still very much bare, but that is a choice I’ve made, rather than a decision based on my desire to look like something I wasn’t.

Listen, I’m not talking about vanity. I’m not talking about self-love in the self-centred way that the world is. I just mean, if the colour red draws you in but someone once told you that you shouldn’t wear it because it was attention grabbing, maybe it’s time to let that go and buy a red sweater. If you’ve always wanted to see what it was like to have pink hair because it just sounds like fun and for goodness sake, it’s just hair, maybe it’s time to go for it, barring any real world/work scenarios where it would be inappropriate to have pink hair.

When I shaved my head, it was a stripping off of one more layer of the mask. It was liberating. And it turns out, my husband actually loves me for me and enjoys watching me change my hair colour every so often (he was the one who shaved my head for me, too). Did everyone around me like that I had done it or approve of it? No, of course not. But that’s not the point.

I think I have been a people pleaser all my life. I did things right, did things well, worried that I wasn’t good enough – constantly – and said yes to things I shouldn’t have out of a sense of obligation. Here’s a heartbreaking thought – it’s likely I didn’t move away or call out for help when being groped by a total stranger in a public hot tub when I was ten because I didn’t want to cause a scene or upset anyone.

What are we saying to ourselves when we continue to wear these masks? What are we saying to God? He made me LOVE colour. I am filled with joy when I can put on a bright green hoodie with a floral print dress or a purple skirt. I buy a white shirt and have to tie dye it (not just because I spill on everything and could never keep a white shirt clean, honestly). So why would I tell myself to buy all black and blue and brown and just blend in with the crowd? I realize some people love the sleek look of all black and good for them! I know people who thrive on a neutral wardrobe. It’s just not me.

These are my thoughts tonight, ones I’ve had before and may have even shared, but maybe they need to be said again. Maybe my tiny bit of bravery will help someone else to pull off the mask they’ve worked so hard to perfect.

Sword in one hand, hammer in the other

For the first time that I can remember, I felt led to a page number in my Bible recently, rather than a book and chapter. Page 444 in my Bible is Nehemiah 4:3-5:7. It was verses 10-23 of chapter four that I felt drawn to, possibly because the title of this section is “Opposition through Discouragement.”

When Nehemiah led the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem, much was against him. Threats, rumours, bribery, slander and more were thrown at him and the Israelites building the wall. Here in chapter four, they find discouragement because they expect their adversaries to come and overtake them while they work. Nehemiah has a solution for this and it is one I believe we should pay close attention to right now.

Nehemiah 4:17-18a “They which built on the wall, and they that bore burdens, with those that loaded, every one with one of his hands wrought in (carried on) the work, and with the other hand held a weapon. For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so built.”

We all have work to do here. This work varies for all of us, beyond the things we are all called to do when we are saved. But how easy it is to get swept up in work – even ministry work – and forget that we have an enemy that prowls about. And how easy it can also be to become overwhelmed and discouraged by that enemy and neglect the work we ought to be doing.

The answer is not one or the other; some believers working and others fighting. The answer is in carrying the tools of work in one hand and the weapons of our warfare in the other.

They had guards and took shifts solely watching and guarding as well but what struck me was that these people were ready for work and war at the same time. Have you forgotten your work while you wage warfare? Or have you forgotten to hold your sword while you get the work done on Earth?

This is a simple concept, probably not very profound, but it meant something to me. My workload feels insurmountable sometimes and so does the state of things in the spiritual, especially right now. Now is the time to ask God what your work is meant to be, which part of the wall are you supposed to be rebuilding, and then remember your sword and keep watch while you build.

Fearfully and wonderfully made

A few days ago, I was back at it with an old foe. Self-image, weight issues, hearing words from long ago echoing in my mind. Thinking about how I can’t seem to lose weight without obsession or extreme deprivation, thinking about what certain members of my family might be saying about me behind my back if they could see me right now. It’s something I’ve dealt with for a very long time and is just not something I’ve beaten yet.

It’s easy to imagine what other people think and then start feeling like God probably feels the same way. Disappointed that I still have baby weight from last time, disappointed that I am not athletic, that I am not a socially accepted size. I was going down that road when I felt Him whisper, “You are fearfully and wonderfully made.”

I turned in my Bible to Psalms 139 and read this familiar verse again:

“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made:

marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knows right well.”

I have for many years imagined myself to be overweight, even when I wasn’t. When I was a young teenager and had to stop wearing junior sizes and wear women’s clothing, I thought this meant I was now fat. When my friends wore size fours and I wore a size ten, I thought this meant I was huge. I look back at photos of myself and feel grieved that I spent so many years thinking that way. So why do I still do that? I’m not talking about making excuses for bad eating or sitting around doing nothing – those are things I’ve been working on for a very long time – I mean focusing too much on clothing size and the shape of my body and what I look like in photos.

He has done marvelous works in my life, both physically and spiritually. I have been delivered from depression, healed of allergies and given the opportunity to carry and birth eight children, even though I once said I wouldn’t have more than three and when I got married, assumed I would be done by the time I was thirty. My body certainly shows the signs of carrying those babies but why don’t I wear it as a badge of honour? Why do I obsess?

The day after this gentle reminder, I asked God how I could lose a bit more weight. He answered quietly, “Just stop eating so much.” I tend to believe that I need to calorie count, work out all the time, eat perfectly, etc. to lose any weight at all and because of my weakness when it comes to perfectionism, I often give up when I realize I can’t do all of that perfectly. But what if I don’t need to be a size ten again? God knows what is right for me and I believe that the first step is moderation. Moderation in what I eat and how I exercise. Not giving into gluttony but not starving myself or becoming obsessive either – that side of things isn’t moderation any more than eating at a buffet every day would be. Not sitting around doing nothing but not spending all my extra time on exercise.

There are practical things I can do to lose weight or at least stop gaining but if my view of myself is broken and I do not see myself through God’s eyes, my motives will always be wrong. I have watched people with a terrible self-image have amazing success at losing weight and it’s just never enough – they still see themselves as too fat or not fit enough. I’ve been down that road, doing crazy things to just lose a few more pounds to hit a goal. That’s not what I want. I want to look at myself and know that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I need to love myself regardless of extra weight, wrinkles, stretch marks or blemishes. If I can figure this out, it won’t matter what I look like and I can finally win this long battle.

 

Search and Rescue

I had a dream in early July that again, I knew had meaning as soon as I woke up. After sharing it with my church, I knew I wasn’t wrong, but it is probably a hard message for the Church as a whole. I pray it is received with grace.

*

In my dream, a cousin who lives in the States had a son, around three years old. He and his son were in the backyard together and one minute he was there, the next he was gone. Searches were conducted but everything pointed to an abduction, not a death. One day a month or two later, I received a program in the mail for his funeral – it had his date of birth and the day he disappeared as his date of death. I was angry. I felt like they were giving up hope. I went to the funeral anyway and while I was there, I was in deep intercession for him, praying for his safety and for his return. I prayed in tongues for most of the time and wept as I did so. I seem to remember that people thought I was strange for my behaviour. I am also certain that at the top of the program, it read “social distancing,” as a reminder not to get close to people. I thought about how awful it was that we could not hug people at a funeral.

*

I believe that this dream is about the Church in North America (and maybe the attitude some have about commerce and the economy as well). Believers have given up hope. We have had things taken away from us suddenly – church and Bible studies one week and the next told that everything is shut down – disappeared. Instead of searching and praying for their return, we are having a funeral – and that without loving each other as we would need in a time like this (social distancing representing lack of unity, distance from each other both literal and figurative). We should be on our faces weeping and praying for the Church but instead we are planning her funeral.

Imagine a large field where a child has wandered off. A search party would line up, nearly shoulder to shoulder, possibly even arm in arm, and comb through that field looking for the child. They would search until they were told they had to stop and even then, experts would come in and look longer. They certainly would never hold a funeral a month later without any evidence that the child had died. There are parents who are still hopeful their son or daughter is alive thirty years after disappearing like this. This is the posture we need to take right now – maybe not literally, but certainly in the Spirit. Hopeful expectation, prayer and fasting, unity in the search.

God has a plan and I know He is making good from what the enemy meant for evil. Will everything look exactly the same when we get it back? Probably not, but let’s not give up, Church. Hold onto hope and keep searching for what He has for us.