Thomas Keating writes that, repentance means “to change the way in which you are looking for happiness.” We are all, every one of us, looking for joy and peace – contentment. We want to rest from the rat race. We want to know that we are okay – known and loved for who we are. We want to feel at home in the life and in the eyes of another–safe, comfortable, and at rest. Not agitated. We desire to look into the eyes of another and see delight. We want to be the apple of another’s eye, of those closest to us. Those who encountered Jesus knew they were the apple of his eye.
We are weary with comparing ourselves to others, yet we do it anyway. I grew up poor and isolated. I didn’t know what I didn’t have. Social media has changed all that. Sometimes, social media is a crystal ball beckoning me to enter vanity fair. My head swivels about, taking in sights and sounds I don’t encounter in daily life. These sights and sounds agitate my soul. Temptations call out, singing their alluring songs, telling me that my life won’t matter unless I succeed according the world’s standards, or even American Christian culture’s standards. These Christian culture standards often mirror our celebrity culture.
Bigger is better. More numbers are better: book sales, blog stats, church members, friends, followers. Higher numbers are better except when it comes to weight. The message I often hear when I gaze into the social media crystal ball that often acts as a window into vanity fair is : you are only someone if you chum around with the right people. You are who you know. You are your connections.
That’s not always the case of course. But it is a dominant message. (We all know of the benefits of social media).
I think of Jesus and how he chummed around with all the wrong people. Jesus didn’t pick his friends based on their money or influence or followers. That’s good news for me and for the rest of the poor in the world. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
I’ve written elsewhere that I often fast from social media, Facebook and Twitter, for my well-being. Fasting from social media cleanses my soul. It reorients me to what is good and true and beautiful. It reorients me to what is important. I think for the Christian, fasting from social media is the modern-day equivalent of seeking silence and solitude in the wilderness.
Many people I admire, those good at loving God and loving others, spend a lot of time in silence and solitude so that they can hear God and return to themselves, return to what they know is right. They spend time in silence and solitude to they can learn to love God and others better. Wendell Berry advises staying away from screens, period.
Fasting from social media allows me to repent. It allows me to change the way I am looking for happiness. It allows me to seek the Jesus way more fully. It allows me to go to Jesus, and get rest, to take his teachings, or yoke, upon me. Fasting from social media is a channel for Jesus’s peace.
What are some ways that you repent? What are some ways that allow you to change the way you are looking for happiness?