Coffee shops are my favorite place to work, read, people watch, and meet with people. Today as I look around my favorite coffee shop, everyone is on their respective laptops, phones, tablets, etc, and I can’t help but think about how we were made for community and connection. We were created with a deep desire to be seen, known, and loved. But, we have turned our tools for connection into a crutch that distances us from the world around us and the people living in it, and I’m the guiltiest of them all.
Our phones are glued to our hands, our Instagram feeds are constantly refreshed, our time spent with others has become time spent looking at our respective devices, and our time spent with Christ is interrupted by text messages, phone calls, and Facebook notifications. We’ve lost the ability to be still, to engage others, to disconnect from technology and connect with those around us. We’ve turned this good gift of technology into an idol. We’ve traded our ability and desire to connect and be known with a crutch to avoid eye contact, uncomfortable situations, and being asked questions that actually let people in on who we really are. We’ve replaced getting to know someone organically with doing our research on social media and letting others just fill in the blanks. The only problem is that social media tends to present a very skewed image of someone. Your best self is what tends to be presented to the world. Everyone can see your happiness, your victories, your “perfect” life. What people can’t see is your hurt, your pain, your insecurities, your struggle, your need, your discomfort, your loneliness, your brokenness, etc. We live our lives through a lens with a very narrow scope, while missing out on the fullness of life and relationships. Our scope is narrow, but our need runs deep. We often trade opportunities for vulnerability, growth, tension, and discomfort for the comfort of a phone that tells us we’re connected without having to actually allow yourself to be known and know others.
As Christ followers, we were created to spur one another on for the gospel, to get down into the nitty gritty of life with those around us, to walk with each other in the messiness of life, and point back to Christ. It’s not easy or comfortable to let people see the depths of our brokenness, but part of bringing darkness into the light is allowing the body of Christ to do what it was created for. Share your grief, pray for one another, reach out, listen, and put your phone or smart watch on silent. Be fully present when you are with people and seek true depth. Don’t run from the uncomfortable, press into it, and see the beauty of Christ working when the darkness is brought into the light in the presence of fellow believers. Allow others to be there for you and push you towards the things of Christ, allow room for those opportunities to happen, and don’t run from them when they do. Don’t sacrifice the opportunity to build relationships for a sense of false connection that social media can bring. Don’t miss the opportunities to meet people where they are truly at because your nose is buried too deep in your screen. Don’t miss the chance to bear one another’s burdens, share the gospel, and spur your brothers and sister’s towards the things of Christ because you don’t look up long enough to see the need.
What if instead of pulling your phone out while you’re waiting for church or that event you’re attending to start, you took the time to get to know the person sitting next to you. What if you used that opportunity at the doctor’s office to share the gospel with the person in the waiting room rather than getting caught up on what’s happening in the lives of people we barely know or only know on a surface level. Take the time to get to know the person behind the Instagram or Facebook feed. I can guarantee that their life isn’t always the Instagram worthy, picture perfect image that’s usually on display. They’re just as broken and in need of Jesus and community as you are. Forget the quick facts list that’s so readily available at your fingertips, and take the time to really know people and allow yourself to be known.
We’re never going to make it in this world alone. Community is necessary. Sometimes community looks like encouraging each other via social media, text, or phone call when life just doesn’t slow down or there are miles between us, but a majority of the time it requires stepping out from behind the screen and living life with each other, truly doing life side-by-side. We are image bearers of God, but we are image bearers of a triune God. We were made for community with Christ at the center.