It’s overwhelming, like a cluttered hoarder’s room, this barrage of information, the downspout satellites of truths flowing from these veritable electronic trees of the knowledge of good and evil. I guess I’ve always sympathized with Pilot’s question because I’ve felt its weight on many occasions myself…
What is truth?John 18:38
I’ve heard there is a growing movement of people trading smart phones for ‘dumb’ ones, and I would be among them were we not so entangled already for reasons that need not bog down this post. Nonetheless, I understand and sympathize with the sentiment. The electronic tree of knowledge keeps giving; the fruit of it is unending, dripping down our chins, staining hearts, then hands, and, soon, feet…
Out of the same mouth so many declare that they know they aren’t God, while also crying out that no one can judge them. Is it tragedy or comedy?
In front of Pilot, as he asked what was truth, stood Jesus. Many focus on Jesus’ silences before accusers, but let’s remember that Jesus had already spoken truth to Pilot, answering his questions prior to this question laced with measured hopelessness: “What is truth?” There was no need for Jesus to answer it again (as was also true in prior cases). Jesus’ entire life had already answered His accusers, whether they chose (or were chosen) to see it…
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.John 1:1
Making more of Jesus in my life requires canceling more of me… and the world. I have lost much of a childlike faith. I’ve lost it in the noise of knowing more, being more aware, being that thing called smarter, wiser, and informed. Well, in truth, I’ve lost it in debate with every side of an argument and double-mindedness on every issue. I’ve lost it in the folds of Pilot’s garments: What is truth? On what shall I stake my life?
No one realizes these things aloud in real time, of course. These are hard-earned and retrospective disappointments. That is, don’t pat yourself on the back too soon or too loudly… I suppose we all think we know it in the moment.
I think we admire the children’s faith because as adults we transgress by trusting God for salvation but squeezing Him out of everything else (intentionally or unintentionally).
Academics and skills, talents or appearances take the place of faith;
commonsense-ness and practicalities, work or politics, take the place of praise;
digesting inordinate amounts of information, wheeling and dealing and grasping, to stay informed and, hopefully, make better decisions, takes the place of prayer;
money, attention, growth, and accolades replace the adoration of the Creator with affection for the world.
I’ve stood with Pilot and with Peter in many denials — and that as a pauper and failure in the world’s (if not my own friends’) eyes! How much harder it must be for the powerful caesars and famed socialites…
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.John 17:17
And I have been judged by His words.
Better now than later, friend.
God has canceled my efforts as vain on more than one occasion. He has that right, and He was right every time. I count myself among the blessed to have seen His spiritual handiwork, even when I could not see His hands.
Learning lessons, like gathering knowledge, is not the point of life. Personally, I find anyone making it to the ripe old age of 40 — ehhem, cough — and claiming no regrets a liar or short-sighted (since there is no perfect person). I would take back every sin, every time I didn’t listen to my Father in heaven, if I could: Those life lessons did not benefit me; they robbed me, as that is the devil’s intent, you know…
Tell me, wise one, did any of the Patriarch’s ‘mistakes’, life lessons, sins benefit them? Or did they stand under judgment?
Moses lost entrance to the promised land after many years of faithful service;
King David lost one son to death and another to rebellion, even as a man of God’s own heart;
Solomon, the wisest we are told, may well have lost his soul after building the house of God;
Judas very likely lost his soul and that after walking with, sitting with, eating with, and fellowshipping with the Messiah.
How glibly we treat our own sins today. It’s as if we’ve never known the truth or His words…
Truly, when were you last confronted by your own sins before a holy God and, found wanting, in the posture of repentance before Him?
My heart and mind are heavy with the endless assaults of whitewashing, the constant drip of self-glorifying knowledge, shameless pursuits of glory and self-adoration and justification, ceaseless evils, argument after counter-argument, gathering of information without conclusions, and untold follies held, like a piece of fruit, from the tree in my hand.
I was not made an Atlas. Neither were you, if we’re going to be naked and admit to the fig leaves… Most days, it is too much. My days have enough trouble of their own.
Oh, but some would wield that tree of power for good!
I know… Well, I know how many take that path. I am choosing today to walk away from that path. It never seems to play out any better than Frodo and Sméagol wrestling over the fires of Mount Doom; I have seen many tumble from there into regrettable fates.
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.1 Timothy 6:10
I think we can safely replace “love of money” with love of anything more than God and arrive at the same point. Our hearts are deceitful; that’s why we don’t follow them.
I have stood in the line-up, experienced being the last pick, embarrassed myself royally, and watched keenly over the years what befalls those who were picked first, succeeded, and won the accolades of men; I understand how privilege and circumstance, resources and opportunities bested me; I have walked the avenues of hoping, striving, humbling, being angry, depressed, withdrawn in despair and outspoken with criticisms, and I have observed and listened to the reactions, responses, and less careful judgments of my own pained maneuvers.
And I have seen how the mighty fall:
First a gift,
Then a skill,
What a talent!
First comes thankfulness,
Then comes accomplishment,
Soon after, pride.
But this is not the end of the bite:
First heralded prayers,
Then declared callings,
Now, the tasseled and tittled deference:
First me then you —
I paid my dues!
Now you must too.
First secret knowledge,
Then the preference for agreement;
Soon, the whips…
First every criticism comes ‘in the wrong spirit’,
Next every criticism is the failure of ‘haters’;
Soon, every criticism dismissed.
The house of cards is stacked high now:
First, you must forgive my slips,
Then, you must ‘heal yourself’;
Soon, the healthy abuse the sick —
Their sickness is their own fault, after all…
The lies slide easy down the backside of truth.
First the talent,
Then the accolades,
Then the addiction.
First the heartfelt mission,
Then the sideways angles,
Then the deceitful heart takes over, full throttle.
The story of every first begins and ends with pride; very few escape this pattern in repentance. Very few want to be last in this world… and, having known the sting of it, I quite understand. But I also know what it is to fall down; we all do.
Nonetheless, my heart aches over all of the sheep being abused by false shepherds, all of the sheep being misled and tricked by the wolves of the world, all of the sheep I find who have no pastor or leader. Watching the mighty fall in person is hard enough. Watching it on endless repeat online is near torture. Many also fall away into various temptations…
My heart aches over the despairing depravity of the world. Listening to Johnny Depp’s testimony on trial recently was one of the most gut-twisting things I’ve ever heard. We consume so much entertainment while laughing at the slighting of morals, the twisting of behaviors, the strange horror of artistic tragedies, too often neglecting to remember that these ideas, visions, and behaviors betray what is ‘normal’ to the world — most of which should be considered devastating in its hopelessness. Instead, we put lost men on pedestals and forget that they too have a soul for which they must give account one day — many without hope.
I watch the misled gobble it all up, like pigs to the slop, and my heart hurts… And, in some ways, it is a sadness over my own failures here too. Fame has crafted many millstones…
And we all have front row tickets to the spectacle via these electronic trees of knowledge:
Shortly, I will heavily neglect (if not close) all of my social media accounts. Unlike the rest of the world, I don’t believe our future is made or broken there…
Likely, I will keep this blog and a small newsletter I send out. I will also continue to work on fiction novellas and novels at home…
These things, my marriage and my children, are more than enough to keep me busy and on my knees.
Yes, I will miss the encouragements I have found online. If we go with the tool analogy, it isn’t all bad. I enjoy seeing my friends and family. I enjoy happy little posts of home and hearth. I will miss these things and, especially, those with whom I’ve worked or been acquainted with in the past whose paths aren’t likely to cross mine again in this mortal world: I will miss the little high fives and hellos from you all.
This retreat is for me, an understanding of what I can and cannot handle — much like the unfriending of some in the past has been for me (not something they did). I feel too deeply, think too deeply, and wander too deeply over such things to run a race while feeling, thinking, and tripping over the whole world’s purview: My own physical terrain is quite enough. If that makes me the weaker vessel, so be it.
I’ll miss the extra photo outlet too, but is that worth remaining online? Not for me… not if I want to reclaim that childlike faith. I find it’s better in life not to know every person’s every thought every day; that alone can be a real hindrance to brotherly love among saints and a hindrance to ministry among the lost. We can all admit that some present as more lovable/salvageable/reasonable than others, eh? We can all admit to speaking carelessly at some point. Still —
My favorite time of adulthood thus far has been during my past sabbatical from social media… truly. Some of my favorite friendships were formed on the ground there.
Social media and the news flow are inseparable these days (my own posts are proof of that). While, no doubt, I’ll still hear the news, it’ll be on my terms of when and where and how. I am as fascinated as disgusted by the social sphere (hence, a sociology degree). My pitfall isn’t one of entertainment (movies, TV, etc…): I’d far rather watch the news… because, at least, it’s real(ish).
Truly, this retreat is about me.
Illusions of Appearances
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”1 Samuel 16:7
There are endless standards by which we are all assessed and seen for our appearances — and illusions thereof — online and offline. No matter how good the standard, it is still in the image of the hollow and shallow when it dismisses, denies, or remains blind to what God sees (both good and bad). As none of us see fully as He does, how much more must we remember to be gracious, careful, and deferring to God in all of our judgments of other people’s logs or specks, while remembering that we will all answer to God.
In person, I find this easier to do. Online, it becomes more difficult because we know too much… On the standard of appearances, your sins are as obvious to me as mine are to you. Scary, isn’t it?
For all of our Christian talk of discernment, we more often judge by mortal means. If you’re not sure about that, consider a judgment held against someone; now, consider the reasons you believe that. Are your reasons physical and visible or spiritual and unseen?
Don’t get me wrong: Folly proves itself, as wisdom proves itself. Eventually, all is laid bare. But I speak of the cuffed ordinances of man — that is, the generalized conclusions we draw based on appearances. (Appearances, here, standing in for a slough of evidences, from tangible hair color to visible ideas of ‘excellence’, etc…)
My general conclusion is that these veritable trees of knowledge do not serve us well. God knew what He was doing when He forbade eating that fruit…
Until we meet again.
From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”
But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…”John 6:66-68