When one of us whom God has brought into existence connects meaningfully and compassionately with another, God is glorified. I see this happening with great frequency around me:
• A cancer survivor prays with a friend immediately before he goes into surgery.
• A writer whose computer was stolen is quickly surrounded by friends and acquaintances who provide money to replace it.
• A grandmother is told happy birthday as her grandson looks into her eyes, crooning “happy birthday to you.”
• A dozen friends gather and discuss a book that helps them see what God is doing in relation to a recent injustice that has been visited upon them.
• An elderly uncle watches his niece as she crosses the graduation stage as he had watched another nine nieces and nephews who went before her.
• A worried mom is told that her son was not in that tragic event that just happened.
• Out of the blue, a total stranger tells me she understands exactly what I’m going through.
If you are a person who pays attention to sacred things happening around you, I’m sure that these types of events do not surprise you. You have witnessed them for yourself and could add another dozen examples of God softly and tenderly moving among us.
What may surprise at least some of you is that in every one of things named above, God was using social media to connect one of God’s children to others. If you are not an avid user of smartphones, tablets and computers, you may not know all that they are capable of doing. You may think they are all cat videos and cyber bullying, scams to swindle people out of money and self-important photos of someone’s breakfast, inane tweets and access to pornographic entertainment. These things are a real and present dimension of social media, but they are not the whole story.
I personally have been blessed by God through the best that social media has to offer.
• When one of my children sought summer employment many miles away from me, my wife and I could coach him and gauge the level of anxiety in his life by listening to his voice as we discussed opportunities and strategies. He was not sitting in our living room but talking into his phone.
• I give financial resources electronically to causes that I believe matter to God. They get where they need to go swiftly.
• As it was actually happening, I watched a dear friend become a bishop even though she is on the other side of the country.
• I heard poignant commentary about current events from groups of people underrepresented in my face-to-face circles.
• I hear what people of faith around the world say about a passage of scripture I will be preaching on. This expands my own sense of God’s invitation to transformation.
• I assure a young woman who feels like the strangest creature in the world in her small town that she is part of a flock larger than the one that physically surround her.
In all of these things and many more, I see the movement of God whose rhythms I came to know through watching Jesus’ life.
I am not alone in this. If you are not one of those who lives in the realities that I describe, that is fine. But rather than judge those who do spend time, (yes, we admit, sometimes inordinate amount of time) there, ask them what it is that makes it worth it for them. Inquire about what sacred things or simple, joyful pleasures they receive there. And then wait expecting they really do have something to say, as does God through them.
The Rev. Dr. Phil Ruge-Jones serves as an associate pastor at Grace Lutheran Church, Eau Claire.