Today is an ordinary Saturday, well ordinary in COVID world, anyway. Nothing on my calendar and nowhere to go. (Florida is looking pretty good right about now) So imagine my surprise and delight when delicious, homemade muffins are magically delivered to my doorstep! Definitely a miracle amid an otherwise mundane day! Unmerited miracle muffins of mercy, I have decided to call them. I did not order them, they just mysteriously arrived and made my day. Thus the surprise factor.
So today’s kind act of my friend, the muffin maker, got me to thinking yet again about the age old tree falling in the forest debate. The tree in the forest may be an outdated example, so I will state the query in more modern terms. If an action or event is not pictured, posted and paraded on any or all forms of social media, did it really happen? (fyi – my friend did not take a picture and post of me receiving her muffins) But I am telling you – they are really good! She is a good cook, I am not.
But I digress. Because this is the question I am pondering; has social media become more of a reality now than actual real life reality? Asked another way, which is more real, social media or my real life experiences? If no one knows what I did or experienced, did it really happen? And if not, was there no “real life” lived by any of us before social media was around to document and disseminate it?
I’m thinking the pioneers couldn’t really share their frontier, daily life escapades with friends and family back home very easily. By the time any letter they wrote was received, their news was long outdated. Even by the time someone got around to writing a letter, their news was in the past, whether it was of an encounter with a bear or of a successful harvest against all odds, the drama was long past by the time pony express came through. Their letters would have been yesterday’s news many times over.
Before TV and modern day social media, what was real was what we experienced ourselves in our own daily lives, not someone else’s manufactured and edited reality put out there for us to consume and to participate in as our own. Judging by the apparent popularity of reality TV, many must prefer a reality carefully scripted and edited to elicit – well I’m not sure what exactly, I guess something we feel we should be experiencing and we should prefer to our own reality.
But real life is so wonderful if we truly live what we have been given where we have been placed in this time in human history which is so full of possibility and potential, yet we are being told is full of fear, failure and futility. So if it’s not on social media, is it real? did it really happen? Jesus speaks to this modern day issue, which is amazing considering the time in history when He was on this earth. But then, Jesus was counter-cultural in His day and His words from Matthew 6 are just as counter intuitive today as they were then. Consider what He taught,
“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. . . . But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.” (Matthew 6:1-4)
So if I give and no one knows, did I really give? (God says yes, God knows) more instructions –
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. . . . But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:5-6)
So if I pray and no one hears, did I really pray? (God says yes, God hears) Jesus continues –
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. . . . But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:16-18)
So if I fast and no one knows I am fasting, did I really fast? (God says yes, God sees)
This doing of things on the down-low, especially important things like giving, praying and fasting, certainly goes against the pull of social media, which says put it all out there for people to see. But then God’s ways have never been man’s ways.
” ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’ ” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
A whole new concept – living my life for an audience of one – my Heavenly Father, not for man’s approval but living for the One who died in my place and redeems my life. The secret life is a rich, real, true life lived in the Presence of our Heavenly Father, who sees all, hears all, knows all. Nothing gets by Him. Not the tree falling in the forest all alone, the anonymous gift, the closet prayer, the secret suffering, the unheralded good deed and sacrifice . . . nothing escapes His notice.
“Not one sparrow (What do they cost? Two for a penny?) can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.” (Matthew 10:29 LB)
sincerely, Grace Day