This Lent, I have decided to fast from social media and blogging. I wanted to share a little bit about what I hope will be different about me when I return to the social media universe after Easter. This Monday, I went to the noon mass at the Catholic Basilica in Washington, DC. The epistle reading they shared from James 3:13-18 was very convicting for me because it described both the ugly wisdom that I currently embody and the beautiful wisdom I hope to have one day:
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
I have lived most of my life on an ideological battlefield. I was two years old when the fundamentalists took over the Southern Baptist Convention. I grew up in a family on the side that lost: the “moderates” (who compared to the rest of the world are still quite conservative; there are no liberal Southern Baptists). Before I knew Joe Montana’s name, I knew who Jerry Falwell and Paige Patterson were, and why they were the bad guys. For most of my life, I have thought that my purpose in life is simply to battle against fundamentalism. It seemed pretty obvious to me that they were the modern-day version of the Pharisees Jesus battled against. But about the time I hit 30, I got disillusioned with having such a reactionary identity. Now I desperately want to transcend it and one day come to a place where I am simply devoted to the glory of God’s Name, no more and no less.
The trouble is that I see Christians in the world doing and saying things in the name of God that seem to me to dishonor God. And so I get baited into wasting hours of time on useless meme wars that accomplish nothing. I come up with really clever ways of demolishing other peoples’ positions. I try to prove that my opponents’ beliefs are completely incoherent and self-contradictory. I talk smack about people who are popular (Mark Driscoll) and kiss up to other people who are popular (Tim Tebow) in order to generate the most possible hits on my blog. My “wisdom” is full of envy and selfish ambition. It is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. It causes disorder and evil practices. When my life is defined by my arguments with others, I become a nasty, un-Christlike person.
The trouble is that I know that God has called me to write. That’s why I started this blog. I poured my heart out to one of my mentors a little over a year ago and he told me to start a blog, so I did. Some of the tactics I have engaged in which make me feel ashamed could also be described as part of the necessary stewardship of my call as a writer. You have to write about topics that are getting a buzz in the blogosphere if you want to one day have the influence to say what God has put on your heart to say. But where are the boundaries? What constitutes selling out your principles? I know this blog has been helpful to some people. You’ve been so encouraging. I just want to find a way to do this without having my consciousness so polluted by bitterness and egotism and jealousy and a host of other sinful attitudes.
I also want to learn how to pursue wisdom out of love, rather than consuming knowledge for the sake of feeling smart. To paraphrase Paul, “Knowledge puffs up your ego, but love builds the kingdom.” I’ve always had the thought that I’m smarter than most people around me. I say that to my shame; it’s a sinful thought. I have such a ferocious appetite for reading Christian theology books. But I do it with such anxiety and a sense of urgency that it’s become exhausting. It has been a pursuit of intellectual conquest rather than a journey of spiritual deepening. There has definitely been spiritual deepening along the way but it’s been accidental. Too much of my learning has served the ugly needs of my insatiable spiritual pride.
I have a sense that God will be able to use me as a vessel of His wisdom when I allow Him to kill my ego, when I come to the realization that He doesn’t need me to be waiting in vigilance on twitter to protest the latest blasphemies of Eric Metaxas or Franklin Graham, when I come to value ordinary life situations that happen in the world outside of cyberspace equally or more than my epic ideological battles, when I somehow receive God’s liberation from the need to be important. I want that real wisdom, the kind that is “first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” In that interest, I need to shut up for a while and listen to God, reading His word not in order to say something important, but simply in order to become a faithful disciple. If I am not a disciple first, then all else that I do is in vain. God bless you this Lent. I will be back after Easter.