A Light so Lovely
“We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”
― Madeleine L'Engle, Walking on Water
Digital connection is here to stay, so when we consider holiness and what is essential for the health of our souls, we have to seriously evaluate the time we spend online and plan to use that time in a way that is consistent with what we believe about the gospel. I find that I have to resolve anew nearly every day to pay close attention to the content I create and the content I absorb. I try to ask myself with every click if that content is getting me closer to becoming the woman I want to be. It’s all about the time; if I’m going to invest that kind of time, it can’t be a waste. It has to be mindful time.
Christian women can and should be light and loveliness online. That doesn’t mean we have to edit out the dark places. On the contrary, we are called to shed light on them. We can post about brokenness and failure and even the dirt in the corners, as long as we do it in a way that allows God into the darkness. To be genuine light to one another and to genuinely allow ourselves to be lit from within by Christ’s love, our online presence cannot be a façade, nor can it be an edited litany of our own perceived perfections. It has to be an honest rendering of the ways we are broken and the ways He uses us anyway. Genuine holiness—essential holiness online—is the hidden heart imbued with His light shining warmly in a genuine, friendly way.
It is a good thing to cultivate beauty online. The Internet is a far better place because of feminine creativity that is oriented toward the good, the beautiful, and the true. We can curate and celebrate the loveliness of authentic Christian life by noticing it and posting that. Challenge yourself to seek out beauty in the ordinary. Then, do a heart check. Is your motivation to glorify God and celebrate His goodness or is it to brag?
“For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.” (Galatians 5:17).
There is a fine line between celebrating the beauty of Christian life and bragging or boasting. Social media engages our senses. We get a quick hit of dopamine when emotion finds its outlet; it’s literally a response of the flesh. So, the flesh is validated with every like and follow. Living according to the flesh has insidiously become the accepted norm on social media. But we are called to more: we are called to die to the flesh and walk by the Spirit. (See Romans 8:5 and Galatians 5:16-17)
So we ask ourselves if our presence online is gracious and lovely. With what heart attitude do we share? We want to be light to the world, but are we engaging in a way that glorifies God? It is often a very tricky path to navigate. If we can click and tap and touch and text with the Spirit, we use time online for His glory.
One way to focus on posting in the light of Christ is to avoid bragging. In our face-to-face life, we don’t trumpet our accomplishments and achievements for the people we meet. Never before has life been a montage of edited, curated photo opportunities. Social media prompts us to promote ourselves, even to posture for praise. But Jesus—a human who did have cause to exalt Himself—models for us a posture of humility. Jesus went quietly about working miracles. He didn’t trumpet His value to the world. He was counter-cultural in his day; he calls us to be counter-cultural in ours. Humility allows us to reflect the Lord’s golden light instead glaring an awful fluorescent one of our own.
Remember, when you offer yourself graciously online, often the influence you have and the goodness you sow may not be apparent to you. You check a post to see how many “likes” it has registered and your heart sinks. A lack of “likes” is not a negative thing. It’s a neutral thing, and it’s not personal. Guard your heart! If you’re struggling with a lack of confidence or just with navigating a bad day, a quick scroll through Instagram can flood you with pictures of prospering on all fronts. And then no one seems to appreciate your own contribution. Suddenly, you have a case of full-blown, miserable envy. It’s time to close the app, to literally count the blessings that are tangible and touchable in your life, to look up and out and into someone’s eyes.
While we’re considering reasons to click it closed and walk away, please know that you don’t have to pound it out when someone is wrong on the Internet. We don’t need to fight all the battles and right all the wrongs. The responsibility to make all things known is borne by Christ, not by people at their keyboards. Sometimes—often—the most virtuous thing to do in the face of error online is get offline and go for a walk or read a book or talk to your kids.
Further, as those times occur and as we recognize those places online where we tend to get dragged into the muck to our detriment, we can see the opportunities to refine our feeds and to contribute in a way that is genuinely good for us and for our communities. When we open an app, our feeds may appear “clean;” nothing is obviously impure or immoral. It’s all lawful. But is it beneficial? (see 1 Corinthians 10:23) Let us be aware for ourselves as well as for the people who consume our content: does it build up? If not, don’t consume it, and certainly don’t offer it for others to consume.
Social media uprisings are rarely beneficial. Be quick to listen, slow to speak. And slow to become angry (see again James 1:19). Take time to create subtle shades of meaning, and be careful about sending content (even in the comments) that is replete with light and expression into your corner of the world. Winnow your feed down to few enough people that you can leave thoughtful comments on other people’s posts instead of mindlessly clicking “like.” Comments create community. If you care enough to send thoughtful, nuanced content into the world wide web, you will attract thoughtful, nuanced content. Whatever you do, wherever you go online, remember that love believes the best about another person. Engage in a way that illuminates the best in us all.
Ponder with a pen:
Spend some time practicing lectio divina with 2 Timothy 3:1-5 and 1 Corinthians 10: 23-31. Really pray about it and listen to what the Holy Spirit is prompting. Then, go clean up your social media feeds. Unfollow or mute as necessary to cultivate a place where you can grow in holiness.
Clearly, being salt and light in the world was very important to Jesus. We read the parable of the light under the bushel in three different gospels. We are called to light the lamp and to keep it burning. Read and compare Matthew 5:14–15, Mark 4:21–25, and Luke 8:16–18 and then make a plan for yourself. How will you be salt and light in your spheres of influence, both online and in your tangible, touchable world?