"God does not write the music of our lives without a plan.
Our part is to learn the tune and not be discouraged during the rests....
If we will only look up, God Himself will count the time for us.
With our eyes on Him, our next note will be full and clear.
If we sorrowfully say to ourselves, 'There is no music in a rest,'
let us not forget that the rest is part of the making of the music."
--John Ruskin from Streams in the Desert
It's time for a rest. Following this post, I will rest from social media. My Facebook account will be deactivated, and my blog will be left fallow for a season.
As a musician, I think of rests as intentional silence. Intentional silence isn't not having things to say. It's choosing not to say them. For a reason.
There are several reasons behind the decision, but before I share those I want to clearly state what my reasons are not:
- I am not angry with social media or with any individual who uses it.
- I do not believe social media is an inherent evil. In many ways, it is a good.
- I am not unhappy with the pitfalls of Facebook or blogging. I don't care much about page hits or likes, and I don't begrudge anyone their pizza, night on the town, or Disney vacation.
The bottom line of my choice: My life presents many difficulties and challenges, which I have taken to God in prayer. In response, He has offered a season of rest as a solution to all of them.Choice. That's an important word. For once, I'm the one closing the door. God guided me to the threshold, displayed my options, and while I know full well He is sovereign over my choice, He has also entrusted the verdict to me. His confidence is precious to my soul.
Piece by piece, the Lord has created a mosaic with my questions and His answers. Now the picture sits complete before me, and I can see the thing that needs doing.
Embracing ObscurityThe first piece came to me two years ago when I read the anonymously authored book, Embracing Obscurity. My disease has forced me into obscurity, and I have complied without bitterness. But now I have the opportunity to actively, worshipfully embrace it by laying aside my online presence. That may not seem like a big deal to some, but my online presence is the only presence I have in the world outside of my home. I don't work. I don't have a church. It's me, my family, and a handful of friends brave enough to enter into my madness.
You may ask why anyone would want to embrace obscurity. Here it is--the kingdom of God is an upside down kingdom in which the truths don't always make sense. Sometimes, the truths oppose sense (i.e. the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-12). Jesus had a lot to say about condescension preceding exaltation, most of which was spoken with actions, not words. As a believer, I desire to follow in my Savior's footsteps. But more than that, this is me cooperating with what God is already doing in my life. This is my "yes" to His call to become less that He may become more (John 3:30).
AddictionI'm Melissa, and I'm addicted to Facebook.
I'm not being cute or silly. I'm dead serious. I use Facebook like druggies use heroin.
I'm not happy with my life at the moment. Things have been hard since October of last year. I thought I'd be healed by now, but I'm caught in this crazy cha cha of two steps forward, three steps back. I'm lonely, sad, and discouraged, and too spent to deal with any of it. Escape is easier. I fill empty moments scrolling my newsfeed because I am too terrified of my own darkness to face it.
There's a flip side to this addiction. When I'm doing well as I was last summer, I can easily shift from being a Facebook addict to what Paul David Tripp calls a "Glory Junkie." According to his two part article, I exemplify at least 5 of 8 signs of glory addiction.
(You can read Tripp's articles here and here.)
By eliminating Facebook and my blog for a season, I can rehabilitate from both addictions at once. But according to this article, which discusses the probable cause of addiction, I'm going to have to do more than cut myself off. I also need to reconnect with "actual, real-live people."
Elsa is WinningIn my previous post, I elaborated on how I resemble both Elsa and Anna in Disney's Frozen. But let me tell you--I'm in full-blown ice queen mode right now. Emotional detachment is the name of the game because it's easier than feeling the pain.
Facebook enables me to detach. I can scroll my newsfeed, and not have to connect to anyone, not even the souls living in my own house.
My Facebook addiction is a double-edged sword because it's both the enabler and the drug. You want to know what scientists believe may be the cause of addiction? Isolation. Let that soak in for a moment.
Johann Hari writes in his article "The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think:"
"The rats with good lives didn't like the drugged water. They mostly shunned it, consuming less than a quarter of the drugs the isolated rats used. None of them died. While all the rats who were alone and unhappy became heavy users, none of the rats who had a happy environment did....
After the first phase of Rat Park, Professor Alexander then took this test further. He reran the early experiments, where the rats were left alone, and became compulsive users of the drug. He let them use for fifty-seven days -- if anything can hook you, it's that. Then he took them out of isolation, and placed them in Rat Park. He wanted to know, if you fall into that state of addiction, is your brain hijacked, so you can't recover? Do the drugs take you over? What happened is -- again -- striking. The rats seemed to have a few twitches of withdrawal, but they soon stopped their heavy use, and went back to having a normal life. The good cage saved them....
Here's one example of an experiment that is happening all around you, and may well happen to you one day. If you get run over today and you break your hip, you will probably be given diamorphine, the medical name for heroin....[I]f the old theory of addiction is right -- it's the drugs that cause it; they make your body need them -- then it's obvious what should happen. Loads of people should leave the hospital and try to score smack on the streets to meet their habit. But here's the strange thing: It virtually never happens....
The street-addict is like the rats in the first cage, isolated, alone, with only one source of solace to turn to. The medical patient is like the rats in the second cage. She is going home to a life where she is surrounded by the people she loves. The drug is the same, but the environment is different.
This gives us an insight that goes much deeper than the need to understand addicts. Professor Peter Cohen argues that human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections. It's how we get our satisfaction....
So the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection."My goal is to improve human connection, and thereby kick the habit.
Better InvitationsMy connection to my kids needs improvement. The first part of my mornings are spent away from them in sick person self-care. After that, breakfast and email. Then I lose myself in Facebook Land until it's time pick up Micah from school, cook lunch, do laundry, etc.
When the inevitable "Look, Mom!" comes, I greet it with a passive "Mmhmm" at best, with a side of grump at worst. But "Look, Mom!" shouldn't be a burden. "Look, Mom!" is an invitation into their world, and if I don't start accepting the invitation, I will eventually stop being invited.
If I need a drug to ease my pain, Kid Land isn't a bad choice. It's costs very little and gives quite the high. Strong relationships with the kids are a side-effect of regular trips.
Meaningful CommunicationThe reason I did not simply fade into online oblivion without comment is that I'm not seeking further isolation, but deeper connection. Whether we visit face to face, over the phone, through text, or by email, it's all more meaningful than likes and page hits.
"In The House"Christian friends: That moment when you are--tra-la-la--reading your Bible and all of a sudden the Holy Spirit lifts the words off the page like a hologram. You know what I'm talking about. It would be super-duper awesome if the words didn't trample all over your toes. Right?
So there I was memorizing the beatitudes and similitudes when I came across Matthew 5:15--
"Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house."
God isn't so interested in me shining for the world right now. He wants me to shine "in the house." I'm not the only one around here flailing dangerously close to the mouth of a pit. My entire family is in a rough spot. Sara is now a threenager. Micah and I were once thick as thieves, but have lost our closeness. And while I do my best to honor Brandon's privacy here, I will tell you his life is far from easy.
The world doesn't really need me but my family does, and I only have a little to give. It's time for my smouldering wick to focus it's light upon those "in the house."
"Shut The Door"The hologram effect happened last summer, too, when I read the story of Elisha and the widow's oil in 2 Kings 4. In the story, the widow owes money to creditors who have threatened to enslave her two sons. She seeks the prophet Elisha's help. He tells her, "Go, borrow vessels from everywhere, from all your neighbors--empty vessels; [gather many]. And when you have come in, you shall shut the door behind you and your sons; then pour it into all those vessels, and set aside the full ones." The next verse reads, "So she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons."She followed every detail of Elisha's orders, filled many vessels, and sold enough oil to pay her debts and cover her expenses. Her sons were saved.
There are no small details when it comes to God's commands. "Shut the door" was an important aspect of the miracle. God wanted to work something in the widow privately before He provided for her publicly.
Just as there are times husbands and wives must shut the door, there are times the believer and her God must do the same. What happens behind the door is private, but it eventually evidences itself.
God and I have a lot of work to do. There is sin to be put down--yes, always--but there's more. God and I are in a grappling match. I know He's going to win, but the work must still be done. Here is a recent excerpt from my Job study notes which will give you a peek into my heart--
"....[Christians] isolate a piece of God's sovereignty--His goodness, might, or wisdom--and reject the piece that doesn't fit with the God they want. In this, the Christian becomes a practical atheist. Here is the the truth: No one is 100% comfortable with I AM. We all like the loving God who paints beautiful sunsets and blesses us with prosperity, but we don't know what to think about the God who feeds young lions with innocent lambs, who allows children to die, and who destroys a good person's health. But God does not exist to be liked. He exists because He exists. He is I AM WHO I AM. The work of an authentic worshiper is to accept the wild and glorious God who has accepted us. To take Him as He is. To say with Job, 'God is wise in heart and mighty in strength. Who has hardened himself against Him and prospered?' (9:4)...Like is too insipid an emotion for a God like this. He leaves us with two options only: to reject Him or worship Him."Since the day the words "shut the door" leapt off the page, I've had to continually ask, "Is this something I should share or keep to myself?" So many ideas never made it to the blog because the Holy Spirit within gave a great big "NOPE!" as the words began to form. Now I don't have to wonder, decide, or waste my time forming a post only to have it axed later. I'm shutting the door.
But not forever. Eventually, these intimate moments will produce something to be shared with the world. Like the city on a hill, it won't be hidden.
Making SpaceIf I want intimacy, I must make space for it. Because I fill every empty moment with social media, there is no room for silence. Silence is vital to the believer because it is in silence that God speaks. I need to give God room to work life in this mortal body, to revive this wounded and weary heart.
Speaking of silence, I think it's time for me to shut up for awhile. I need to improve my listening skills. Not only with God, but with people. Sufferers don't need a blog post telling them how to manage their suffering as much as they need a listening ear and a praying friend. I have a lot to learn, which means I have lot of listening to do. It's time to step away from the podium and open my ears and my heart.
And, of course, there's the novel. I completed my rough draft December 20, 2014. And--wow--is it rough. Since then, I've taken the advice of a family friend who is also a published author, and set the work aside for a time in order regain a reader's perspective before diving into rewrites. Meanwhile, I've been researching in order to better define the world I've built around my characters and story. Rewriting is the real work of writing, and it's time-consuming. I'll be in that place soon. By giving the blog a rest, I can focus my mental energies upon my larger project rather than dividing them between the two.
Accomplishing My GoalsBefore the pieces were all in place, before social media rest crossed my mind, I journaled this list of goals for 2015:
- Listen. Listen, listen, listen. Listen carefully, respectfully, humbly, thoughtfully, and compassionately.
- Wait to speak. Wait 30 chapters before uttering a peep.
- Speak when it is time to speak. Be brave!
- Speak truth in love.
- Love mercy. Show mercy.
- Be thank-full.
- Forget myself.
- Dance! (Learn "Thriller." It's time.)
- Be "joyful in hope, patient under trial, faithful in prayer."
- Love creatively, thoughtfully, meaningfully.
- Look for the plank. It's there. Forgive the speck. It's small.
- Produce a readable draft of the novel. Let someone read it.
- Read more. Facebook less.
- Live. Consider risk and reward. Choose life at every opportunity.
- Live purposefully. Seek God's will. Do it.
Even if you don't, I do. I see it, and I'm certain. And I'm not often certain when it comes to change.
So this is goodbye. For a time, anyway. If you want to keep up with me while I'm away, I plan to send out periodic newsletters via email. You may send your email address to firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to receive those.
Now for a poem I recently penned to mark where I am today so I can appreciate where I'll be when I return--
Some diseases are a death sentence.
Some are a life sentence.
Which is easier to bear?
A small cell or the chair?
A cage or a casket?
No one knows
and both are hard
on the sick one and the watchers.
Some of us die in here,
but I believe
there is a key
an early release.
Or so I've been told
by the Prison Ward
who is kind and good and wise and hard.
The door will open
when the cell has done its work
and the bars have made me free.
Or so I believe.
But all I see
are steel and concrete.
Spare walls and a lonely lock
mock my faith.
I smell sky and pine.
Sun shafts through the window.
Voices chuckle and cluck,
a murmur through stone,
a reminder of what I'm missing,
a promise of what's to come.
But the Warden visits me--
and this place has be-come
"For a while," He corrects.
So I believe.
"Let us not forget that the rest is part of the making of the music."