The silent sounds of checking our social media feeds has become speed skating with thumbs.
If there was such a time when social media was used to interact with friends for genuine connection then surely it was many years ago. Instead our feeds have become filled with memes from various subcultures, outrage about so-called news items, targeted ads, and odd comments from that one friend who enjoys debating with strangers. Yet, we still find ourselves drawn to it like moths to a light.
It struck me, as I was tapping through Instagram stories the other week, that all this drives us toward a culture of the trivial; a culture in which we skim over the lives of others instead of stopping and listening to what lies beneath. Underneath the pictures and words shared through these stories there are people—their lives, their needs, and their hearts. And it is these hearts we skim over; hearts that yearn to be known, yearn to be heard, and yearn to be listened to.
All this drives us toward a culture of the trivial; a culture in which we skim over the lives of others instead of stopping and listening to what lies beneath
For to be known is deeper, and something more meaningful, than to be liked, followed, commented-on, or shared. While we may share the portions of our lives we wish others to see, we still yearn to be known by people, for relationship and friendship. Our stories are just momentary glimpses, shadows, of what’s really going on in our hearts.
But in Psalm 139 the Psalmist points us toward one who knows us wherever we are and in whatever we are doing:
Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up; you understand my thoughts from far away. You observe my travels and my rest; you are aware of all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, you know all about it, Lord. You have encircled me; you have placed your hand on me. This wondrous knowledge is beyond me. It is lofty; I am unable to reach it. Where can I go to escape your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I live at the eastern horizon or settle at the western limits, even there your hand will lead me; your right hand will hold on to me.
Immediately we are struck by the way in which the Lord knows us, and knows us intimately. This is not a faux-friendship. This is not a faux-relationship or connection. This is a God who knows us personally, emotionally, singularly. It depicts for us a God who is there with us and who knows us better than we know ourselves. This is not a momentary glimpse of what we’ve been up to over the weekend and how great the smashed avo was for breakfast. This is God. And he knows us.
I am reminded of Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John:
I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and my own know me, just as the Father knows me, and I know the Father. I lay down my life for the sheep. But I have other sheep that are not from this sheep pen; I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. Then there will be one flock, one shepherd. This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life so that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father. (John 10:14-18)
In picturing his people as sheep Jesus tells us he knows each one of them. Like a shepherd knows his flock, so too Jesus knows who are his. As God the Father knows God the Son, so too Jesus knows us. We are known by God and loved by God, as revealed by Jesus laying down his life for us.
As God the Father knows God the Son, so too Jesus knows us. We are known by God and loved by God, as revealed by Jesus laying down his life for us.
Often it takes something significant to disrupt our regular practices and habits. The other week I had two funerals to attend. If there is ever something that will disrupt us, get us looking up and out from ourselves, then memorial services for the dead are the way to do it. For there in front of us is the reality of life and death. There before us is the end. And reflecting on the end can jolt us back into what really is reality.
Our social media stories give us a picture of a life in front of us. And however momentary this picture is, it depicts a false reality. For behind that picture is a person, and in that person is a heart, and in that heart is the desire of things greater than can be captured by a phone.
There really is a story behind those stories we choose to flick and tap past.
For the reality is life is also momentary. Perhaps a few years, perhaps a few more. But at some point, our stories will end. Our stories will disappear like the stories we share and view.
And so, when the dust settles, what is the story behind the stories we share of ourselves? As we understand ourselves to be known by God, how does that lead us to be known by others?
The challenge is to lift ourselves beyond the flick and the tap, and seek to engage with the heart of others through listening and sharing the love of God.