Please…Go Outside

“The artificial world lies and cheats. It seduces us with the worst of all lessons: that life is easy, and comfort is the goal. Thus it kills initiation at every turn. It cheats us of nourishment and strength and the very training we need. The answer is not only online filters. The answer is to choose a life where you prefer the Real over the artificial everywhere you possibly can. Reality was meant to shape us. The artificial is built almost entirely around our comfort and ease. Take back your soul. Re-engage the process of your initiation by choosing the Real everywhere you can.” John Eldredge

I read a blog post a few weeks ago called Choosing What Is Real by John Eldredge and have been revisiting it over and over ever since. Perhaps because it’s summertime, and I’m over the top about everyone getting the heck offline… it’s also because I am more nauseated than usual about the inter-webs and the ways in which we rely so heavily on them for identity and entertainment.

The idea that we not only spend most of our lives indoors behind a screen in an artificial world, but that we actually prefer it is so very disheartening. Anyone with kids understands this truth all too well. The ways in which games are being marketed towards getting them sucked into an artificial world is nothing short of evil marketing genius. If it’s not games, it’s the social apps that put everything on parade all day long. I’ve touched on it before, but I have an somewhat irrational aversion for most things YouTube related. I know there are interesting things to watch, but the amount of trash out there is mind-boggling. I know this because I have boys who watch really dumb stuff. You watch one video, and another automatically pops up, then another… before you know it, you’re sucked into some of the most absurd things you’ve ever witnessed.

To be clear, I’m not lamenting the good old days or wishing technology away. I’m not standing in my yard yelling at young kids to get off my lawn… not just yet. I’m saying that there’s something bigger at stake here, and it has to do with more than just safety filters.

I saw something yesterday that sent my mind into overdrive on this topic. There was a YouTube convention in which tens of thousands of teens showed up to see a certain famous online personality and get a picture with her. I had never heard of her, or any of them for that matter, but I’m fascinated about what draws the teens in, so I checked out her Instagram page. Turns out, she is no more than a vulgar, half-naked, barely legal in most states brat. She flaunts her body parts, her drugs, her mouth, and gets utterly nonsensical fights with other YouTube stars I’d never heard of. This is what passes for important to these kids. I experienced a level of disgust and wonder that I had not felt in some time. Otherwise lovely and smart young people are flocking to this stuff like it’s no big deal and I promise you, it’s slowly becoming the voice in their heads when it comes to their worldview. When you idolize someone else’s identity, you have no room to develop your own.

When Daniel and his friends were taken captive to Babylon, the king tried to get them to assimilate into their new culture. If he could get them to develop an appetite for the things of Babylon, they would be at his mercy. The thing is, too many of us have cultivated a voracious appetite for the artificial and it’s making us lose our sense (spiritual sense and common sense). We have to get back to desiring real stuff. When 20,000 kids show up at 6am to stand in a line to meet a rebellious smart a#%, they are searching for something. When they spend the entire day on their phones communicating with people they’ll never know, they are searching for something. Imagine for a second if they all stopped seeking the fake and instead went for the real thing.

Friends, young or not, our identity must be rooted in something besides a phony culture. If all technology fizzed-out tomorrow, would you still be you? If nobody was there to give you a thumbs up, would your habits or lifestyle change? That old saying about knowing whose you are so you can know who you are is true: without a deep understanding that we are children of God (Romans 8:16) we are destined to be slaves to an ever-darkening culture that will mold us and shape us but never ever satisfy us.

Our culture is aggressively seeking to assimilate us to it’s ever-changing values and ideas. Most of it is done through the artificial world of the internet and through people who have utterly sold their souls to do its bidding. We need real… people, experiences, moments. We are created for it. Though it isn’t always comfortable, it’s what pushes us forward and strengthens us. We have got to get our eyes off of ourselves and go join the real world.

I’ll end with a reminder from John Piper’s bestseller Don’t Waste Your Life:

“The really wonderful moments of joy in this world are not the moments of self-satisfaction, but self-forgetfulness. Standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon and contemplating your own greatness is pathological. At such moments we are made for a magnificent joy that comes from outside ourselves.”

Christ offers a joy that can’t be bought. He gives us a satisfaction that ten million Instagram likes can’t begin to match.

Let’s stop being so pathological. Let’s go be real. 😉

sober silence

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“I want to to suggest that, at 41, if you still feel pressure from the culture to say something, then you’re probably not prepared for the hard cultural onslaught that is coming in the next two decades that will bring you to 61.

For sober silence rather than self-indulgent promotion might just get us through the cultural squeeze we are about to face in the coming decades, and reform us in a manner we desperately need.”  Stephen McAlpine

Our pastor at church has begun a series he’s calling “Unselfie: How to Live Selflessly in a Selfie World.” I think it’s one of the most important topics he could possibly address right now, how Jesus calls us to be sacrificial and authentic while culture says we must filter and promote our latest pursuits. We really are up against some powerful messages from the world about how to best present ourselves, and it’s a tidal wave that I think promises to sweep us away completely if we don’t actively fight against it.

The pressure to say something. Anything. If not on the internet, then in real life. Not everything is a battle worth fighting, although knowing the difference is becoming more and more crucial. I tell my kids most of what they watch and hear online is useless information at best that just takes up more space in their heads that was meant for something better. This isn’t a battle that’s easily won.

The other day they were watching a uTube video of a little boy reviewing Kraft Miracle Whip. My first question was, of course, “WHY are you watching this?! Who cares about a six year olds opinion of condiments?” They just thought it was funny. That’s it. They can’t comprehend my hatred for uTube and stupid videos of useless stuff. I can’t quite grasp it either, but it is high on the list these days of things that baffle and perplex me.

I’m pushing forty now and maybe it’s just because I don’t feel like I have the headspace for all the random junk that’s out there. I’m more about quality over quantity these days. I don’t believe in reading every new book that comes out, and there are a lot of them. The messages of the day are self, self and more self. Everything has become really grey, as people whom we trust or who have a platform to influence believers cave to culture while tossing in a bit of Jesus for good measure. In the end it’s about selling feel-good stuff that gives you the readers equivalent of a sugar-rush and then inevitably, a crash.

I think the internet has (wrongly) taught us that the most important thing we can do is put ourselves and our faces out there with our big opinions and clever takes on everything from mayonnaise to Bible reading in order to be seen. The manic need to self-promote over Jesus-promote is such a sign of the times we are in. We are convinced that we need to make some kind of phony platform for ourselves so we can get noticed so we in turn can share some truth.

I think it works in reverse. Each of us already has a platform from which to start discipling right where we are at. It starts at home and in our little circles. It starts when we stop self-promoting and put others ahead of ourselves. It flourishes when we stop fretting about what culture wants us to say and ask Jesus what He wants us to say. There must be times of “sober silence” when that old flesh of ours has to be crucified a bit, because there’s a world out there that needs to hear solid truth. Not “my truth” or “your truth”, but Biblical truth that doesn’t change with the winds of opinion.

That pressure we feel from culture to “say something” doesn’t have to steer us. How amazing if we would all just take some “sober silent” time to see what Jesus would have us say before we run amok with our words. He absolutely wants us to speak up, and when the words are His, they are powerful.

Lord, help us see the difference between self-promotion and promoting YOU. Help us lay down our selfie life and choose to put others ahead of ourselves so that Your kingdom can be promoted here on earth. Give us discernment to know when to keep silent and when to speak up.