We are fairly new to the world of social media. Within the last year we joined Facebook and I started a blog. The year before that my husband joined Twitter. We have enjoyed the benefits of the additional prayer, fellowship and contact these avenues have afforded us. But I've noticed the same avenues that provide numerous blessing can also provide us avenues with which to 'rag on life'. While posting the other day I had a nagging feeling that what I was posting wasn't necessary or helpful. It was real, it was a prayer request in my life and it was a situation I was hoping would work out for the best. But was it best to share it? This got me thinking.
Every missionary when they leave American soil begins a life that will set you apart from most people on the globe. You will live a very very unique blessed life. There is a handful of people who have experienced it but outside of those few very few others will understand your daily life. Everybody's life has a touch of this. Everybody goes through unique things in their life that few others will truly understand.
Shock of all shocks we lived 5 years on the field without facebook! Very few had seen the nitty gritty of our lives. As a first term missionary, we returned from the field extremely zealous to rectify this. We were overflowing with stories and experiences. We wanted to talk and talk and talk until you see dawning and realization light the eyes of the person with whom you are talking. But soon you begin to realize, they don't get it. They are generally kind, many of them love you and care but they don't understand the life you live. It isn't their fault, the same can be said in reverse. After many years pass on the field we begin to lose our understanding of American life and thinking. We will have been here 7 years in May and there are times I hear Americans talk and I sit dumb-founded. Nothing bad, just cultural things I forget.
People live their lives with a plan for every minute of every day? What!? And they actually accomplish it all?! What is this black magic? I must find the witch doctor that gave them this incantation.
Then came along the life changer......Facebook. The world is at your fingertips at every waking moment (if you have electricity:). After a brief time you begin to realize you now have the power and capability for people to understand and see your life much more clearly and it can be dangerous. Before, we talked to our family once a week or two on skype and uploaded photos whenever the Internet got around to loading them to Dropbox. Now, at any moment, at any time, during any situation, you have the ability to expose, describe and and take pictures of every blessing, heartache, trial, frustration and triumph that will pass your way. Will people completely understand your life now that you have Facebook? No way! But it sure gives them a MUCH bigger glimpse. This can be said of any person in any station. Facebook is the eye opener to everyone's personal lives.
And the wisdom of Spider-Man lives on, "With great power comes great responsibility". The question is now that I have the power to accomplish what I've always wanted, how will I use it? I have seen it used multiple ways. Recently, I talked to a missionary friend. She excitedly told me about her Christmas holiday. She told me how they were able to get potatoes for the first time in a year for their Christmas dinner! She was so excited, and I was so excited for her. Then my mind thought back, I never read about this on their Facebook posts. And my admiration for her grew. Because she went through something life altering and devastating? No. Because they are really suffering for Jesus? No. But because she is contentedly living the everyday life of a 3rd world missionary. Because she had the power to whine and complain to all her FB friends, and she didn't. She is not facing something super unusual for a missionary. Is it inconvenient? Absolutely! But really that's about the translation of the mission field and ministry in any language. Something I've come to realize is that as missionaries we have the ability to portray normal things on the mission field as astronomical and devastating to friends, family and supporters in the states and receive heaps of sympathy. Because we are determined to get them to really understand our lives.
Here is the blessing the Lord showed me. I can spend my life striving for everyone to understand the intricacies and trials I face, or I can spend my life seeking to convince people of the goodness of God in every situation. Facebook has been an unbelievable blessing in many ways. I can't describe how much we have felt the increased prayers in our daily lives and ministry since we joined. We have been able to share many stories that have really helped people understand ministries in Nepal. We love the unity and love we feel from our family, friends and supporting churches.
But I've also seen that if we are not careful we can describe the inconveniences of the mission field as a life full of frustrations, deprivation and devoid of fun, joy or blessings. Soliciting lots of pity and fear from anyone ever being called to do the same. Or we can take the challenging situations we face and shine light on the provisions of God, miracles of his everyday workings, and the blessing it is to be a part of it. We have the power to take the same situation and either intimidate others about following the life of faith or encourage them to not be left out of the blessings the life of faith always gives. We hold a great influence on how others see missions and following Christ. I'm realizing more and more that every struggle and inconvenience doesn't need to be shared with the world.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not one of these pie in the sky, nothing ever goes wrong people. I don't think you have to pretend things never go wrong to please the Lord with your speech. That's a different post.
What drives you when you post? Is it to keep in touch, partner with prayer partners and lift up Christ? Or is it to get people to understand you and your life, to keep from being forgotten on the other side of the world, and make sure people have a super clear view of the life of a missionary? We all struggle with this but the question is, "If at the end of our lives, if we could look back and say we succeeded at one which one, will we regret? This isn't a trait I always uphold but something the Lord is teaching me.
What can I do to keep me positive and lift up Christ on Facebook?
1. Don't post when you're discouraged. Keep in mind, I didn't say don't reach out to someone while discouraged. The Lord is our highest helper always, but He gave us fellow Christians to strengthen us. We are flesh and need encouragement. What I'm saying is, don't reach out to the whole world when you are at your lowest. This doesn't help anyone. You need to have a circle of friends who love you and Christ and will help lift you up out of discouragement, not the attention of the world.
2. Confide in the close friends God has given you, not the whole world. We all MUST have godly influences or friends in our lives to encourage us on the life of faith and obedience to Christ. If we neglect to invest in these relationships it will be much easier to give in to the temptation to unload on those who either can't handle our situation or shouldn't have to our situation. I can't express how thankful I am for the amazing friends God has put in my life!
3. Spend more time thinking about the positive than the negative.
Luke 6:45, "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh."
If your heart is full of grumbling it will come out in public places.
4. Don't talk about negative things unless you can find something you can sincerely be positive about in the situation.
5. Don't complain about things that make your ministry look like more of a curse than a blessing. We all have daily frustrations that we can empathize with each other and many times even laugh but we should never use those to tarnish the provisions of Christ in a public forum.
6. Don't post things to correct others. Don't try to correct people you perceive to be selfish, inconsiderate or spoiled by one-upping them with your posts. As a missionary you can perceive others who don't have the same inconveniences as you as unthankful and selfish. This isn't always the case. The Lord hasn't called them to the life you have. They have their own walk of faith, to walk in with a grateful heart. It isn't less important than yours. Don't seek to make them like you or make them feel guilty for not having the same bumps in their lives that draw us close to dependence on Christ.
7. Make it your life mission to acknowledge Christ's blessings and share them. Many times blessings aren't lacking in a person's life but ignored in hopes of a different blessing. In this last year I have found that some days it is super easy to spot God's blessings, but in low times, if you aren't careful, the devil will get you so focused on the problems you will begin to think there aren't any blessings at all. Whether they are few or plentiful, blessings are always there!
This has definitely been a light bulb concept for me recently. I want to stand before Christ and say I lifted Him up. Let's strive together to make it our goal to convince others of God's goodness and not our struggles. I sure don't know everything and I'm a work in progress, for sure! Thanks for stopping in to spend Thursday with us at the BMW.