Tim and I have been a part of “Teams of Our Lady” for about 7 years now. It is a wonderful faith sharing group for Catholic couples. Last night we had our monthly meeting for August and somehow during the meeting, in the midst of discussing the convenience of following the teachings of the Church and whether or not we allow selfishness and misunderstanding to cloud our relationship with Christ and our spouses, the topic of Facebook came up. I have had a love/hate relationship with Facebook since joining the sight in 2008. I love that it connects me with friends I would otherwise not ever hear from, and I love peeking at it throughout the day when I am feeling bored or lonely. I hate that I feel the need to peek at it throughout the day when I am feeling bored or lonely and that it seems to stir up feelings of inadequacy quite often as I see what is going on in everyone else’s life as I am feeling bored and lonely. Anyway, I was sharing my internal emotional battles concerning Facebook and one of the members of our group, who incidentally is not at all involved in Facebook, asked me if the positives were really as positive as they seemed. “Are you really connecting with others?” he asked.
After the meeting, Tim and I always continue the discussion. So we drove home, once again talking about the pros and cons of social media. I decided I really needed to just pray about it. In all my stressing over whether I was keeping my internet usage in perspective and had a healthy balance in life with it, I had never really asked God what he wanted from me. When I sat down to pray last night before bed, as I always do, I just ask God to enlighten me. “Help me to know what you want for me concerning Facebook, God” It was a strange prayer, I suppose, but one I think He has been waiting to hear. I, then, looked down at the list of scriptures given to me by my spiritual director and opened up to the next one on the list. Mark 10:17-22. Now, God does not often answer my prayers so definitively or so quickly but the Bible reading was about “The Rich Young Man.” The story tells about a man who comes to Jesus asking Him what to do to gain eternal life. Jesus answers that the man must give all he has to the poor and follow Him. The man leaves sadly, not willing to make the sacrifice. He is too attached to his worldly comforts. I’ve read the story many, many times and it is one I really like. This time, it spoke to me even louder than ever. God was clearly asking me to sacrifice my Facebook usage because somehow it was keeping me from completely following Him. I knew I had to quit. I went to bed resolving to deactivate my account in the morning.
I did not sleep well. Somehow in my sleep, and the waking moments in between, I was thinking a lot about giving up Facebook. I kept thinking about all the good things. The friends who I only ever communicated with through the internet. The ones I had found after losing contact for years and years. The encouragement I sometimes got, or gave ,when life was hard and struggles were shared through status updates. The joy of seeing new babies and wedding announcements and milestones in life on Facebook. The cool videos and pictures and website links I had learned about. Did I really want to give it all up? It certainly wasn’t all bad. But, in my heart I felt like the rich young man. Jesus had told me what to do, after I had come to Him asking, and now I had a choice to make. Would I go away sad, or would I leave it all behind and follow Him?
I woke up in the morning to a list of notifications on my Facebook page. People had responded to things I had shared and said nice things to me. Yet, with Tim’s help I deleted my account. I did not just de-activate, with the option of logging back on at anytime I wanted. I deleted. The account is gone, with all the cute little pictures of my kids, all my status updates and message history, and tagged notes, and videos, and friends list and more. Instead of feeling relieved or spiritually uplifted. I felt sad, like the rich young man, even though I did what I felt like I was supposed to do.
In my sadness and unsettledness I went back to the Bible story. I just needed a little reassurance, and since I could not put it on Facebook and get the feedback of my friends, I went to the scriptures for the comfort of my Lord. I re-read the story. It says, “Jesus looked at him (the rich man), loved him, and said to him, ‘You are lacking one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give it to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come and follow me” (Mark 10:21). I read it more carefully and noticed, Jesus loved the man. Before He spoke and asked the man for his sacrifice, He loved him. He said to the man, you will have treasures in heaven. Jesus was not asking the man to make the sacrifice as a test or as a punishment. He loved him and wanted what was best for him. Jesus knew the earthly treasures, though they in and of themselves were not bad, were not what was best for the rich man. The treasures in heaven would have more than made up for the sacrifice. He wanted the man, and me, to sacrifice the good things in life for the better things Jesus has to offer. It is never easy to sacrifice, at least not for me, or apparently the rich young man, but it does allow God to fill our lives with better things. So good-bye Facebook, if you need me you’ll find me right where God wants me, trying to follow His Son, Jesus, without my earthly treasures….