fire[image by Capture Queen]

I have been thinking a lot…a lot about Anne Jackson’s recent decision, Saying Goodbye to Facebook. And then yesterday she followed it up with an article at Purpose Driven, Why I Kissed Facebook Goodbye. Something that Anne said in the article really stuck out to me:

The ultimate question, for the social media world as for every other world, is this: Is how I’m spending my time bringing glory to God? When the online world becomes our only source of communication or inspiration, it may be time to take a little breather and log off.

What stuck with me is this. That since I have been more and more involved online, I feel that my ability to rest, sit in silence, listen, journal, and reap inspiration from the writers that fueled me for so long (the Bible, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Henri Nouwen, Annie Dillard, Eugene Peterson, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, etc.), has greatly dwindled. And ultimately, I think that has led to less creativity from me.

Maybe what many of us are wondering is how we protect the creativity and inner fire…that which gives us life and helps us contribute to the communities around us.

I have long been an advocate of new media, emerging technology, especially among ministry people. Four and half years ago I was telling pastors and churches that they needed to have an online presence and be blogging. My home church thought I was a bit crazy. Last year I wrote a chapter in a book on the importance of Facebook (new media) for engaging youth ministry. And last month my article for why pastors should Twitter appeared in Collide Magazine.

So what I’m trying to tell you is that I’m highly invested in this online world, so I’m thinking through it very carefully.

I’ve been re-reading for the 3rd time Henri Nouwen’s book, The Way of the Heart: Connecting with God Through Prayer, Wisdom, and Silence. And he says something that I think is very important for all of us. And I’m going to quote at length here because it’s that important:

A SECOND, MORE positive, meaning of silence is that it protects the inner fire. Silence guards the inner heat of religious emotions. This inner heat is the life of the Holy Spirit within us. Thus, silence is the discipline by which the inner fire of God is tended and kept alive.

Diadochus of Photiki offers us a very concrete image: ‘When the door of the steambath is continually left open, the heat inside rapidly escapes through it; likewise the soul, in its desire to say many things, dissipates its rememberance of God through the door of speech, even though everything it says may be good. Thereafter the intellect, though lacking appropriate ideas, pours out a welter of confused thoughts to anyone it meets, as it no longer has the Holy Spirit to keep its understanding free from fantasy. Ideas of value always shun verbosity, being foreign to confusion and fantasy. Timely silence, then, is precious, for it is nothing less than the mother of the wisest thoughts.’

These words of Diadochus go against the grain of our contemporary lifestlyle, in which ‘sharing’ has become one of the greatest virtues. We have been made to believe that feelings, emotions, and even the inner stirrings of our soul have to be shared with others. Expressions such as ‘Thanks for sharing this with me,’ or ‘It was good to share this with you,’ show that the door of our steambath is open most of the time. In fact, people who prefer to keep to themselves and do not expose their interior life tend to create uneasiness and are often considered inhibited, asocial, or simply odd. But let us at least raise the question of whether our lavish ways of sharing are not more compulsive than virtuous; that instead of creating community they tend to flatten out our life together. Often we come home from a sharing session with a feeling that something precious has been taken away from us or that holy ground has been trodden upon. (pp. 45-46)

More than anything, the stirring of the Spirit as I have been reading scripture, and Nouwen’s words, have given me reason to stop and reflect about what the shape of my future online presence looks like.