People are valuable but broken.
We can never be whole if we refuse to believe we are broken.
Denying sin is the luxury of the privileged.
Accepting our sinfulness gives hope and health to our relationships.
“Big changes happen in small rooms” -Jenn Wilkin
If you live by praise you will die by criticism.
Be faithful to the end.
Can you fall asleep at night without listening to a podcast or having a TV playing in the background?
Do you get anxious if you can’t find your phone?
When is the last time you forgot to check your phone for 3 or more hours?
Can you have a coffee with a friend without your phone on the table?
Can you share a meal with friends without checking your phone?
Are you able to read a book or sit quietly without feeling anxious or a having a constant distracted mind?
Can you post something on social media and not check the response until six or more hours later?
When is the last time you woke up and didn’t look at your phone until one or two hours later?
If you are like me… one or more of those questions might have caused a small cringe moment.
I believe one of the greatest needs amongst Christians today is digital discipleship. I do not mean people discipled through digital outlets. Digital discipleship is followers of Jesus who are purposeful and intentional in their relationship with the digital world. People who have gone through a serious and strenuous re-orientation when needed. People who have brutally faced how their phone and social media have shaped their inner world and dehumanized their outer world.
Basically asking question, how would Jesus use a cell phone?
The only serious discussion happening in the church is regarding porn. It is no secret that I think porn ruins our sexual, relational and spiritual lives. But let’s set that aside.
Where are intentional discussions happening around every other aspect of this digital world we swim in? Where and how are Christians being challenged to think about what how a Jesus follower interacts with their phone, Netflix or podcasts?
The reality is, we are affected deeply by the invasive presence of text messages, social media, web browsing, on-demand television, and podcasts.
We often feel a nagging discomfort about this area of our lives. But there are hard realities we rarely face.
Daily digital presence predicts, with scary accuracy, a persons’ levels of anxiety and depression. Do you constantly check social media and binge on Netflix regularly? The statistics tell us you likely also struggle with regular anxiety and/or bouts of depression.
Did you know that silence is actually needed to regenerate brain cells in your hippocampus? This is the area of the brain associated with learning, memory and emotion. The average person now has almost zero minutes of silence each day. Our brains are like toddlers who ate Twinkies all day, skipped both naps and who has stayed at a party way to long.
Of course we all see daily parents who talk to their kids while staring at a screen. Friends who sit in a restaurant, speaking out snippets of thoughts here or there, never engaging in deep meaningful conversation.
I’m not saying all this to point a finger or induce false guilt. But, truly, this is us.
Here’s where some of those questions are leading. Would you (or me!) describe your relationship with the digital world as compulsive, invasive or controlling?
I’ll be brutally honest. In Christian circles, I hear a lot of people declaring that depression and anxiety have no hold on them.
We want less anxiety but we can’t be alone with our own thoughts. Our lives set-up our brains to produce more and more stress hormones with hour after hour of digital engagement. Whether scrolling Instagram for an hour each night or watching hours of Netflix instead of being bored. The enemy is in the camp. We need to admit that.
I believe in God’s power to heal but God is not going to magically heal anxiety in a life we can’t face. Anxiety will not decrease while our escapism increases.
I also hear Christians say with conviction that loving people is their life purpose.
I don’t know who we plan on loving when we spend more time with pictures of people than actual people. “Loving people” will be a nice saying painted on our wall but not a reality in our lives.
We need to get serious about digital discipleship. Being people who are intentionally and painfully re-orientating our lives in this digital age.
He longs for us to serve a more generous and life-giving Master.
We can embrace the benefits of this digital world (there are many). We can also reject the burden it has become on our lives.
In my next post I will share some thoughts on practical ways we can slowly start to re-orientate our lives. Away from a life filled with noise, anxiety and non-human relationships. Towards living with more peace, life and God intended relational wholeness.
Until then, take some time to think, “Am I content with my relationship to the digital world? Is it bringing me peace, life and relational wholeness?”
** I am not suggesting that all anxiety and depression is solely caused by our levels of digital engagement. These issues are unique and multi-layered for each person. Increasingly, though, studies do suggest that re-calibrating our digital engagement would, at the minimum, be extremely helpful in our journey with these issues.
About 3 weeks before I left South Africa I had a final coffee with my Pastor’s wife, a woman whom I have immense respect for. She had, herself, done what I was about to do. That is, leave an adopted homeland to move back to her country of birth. For them it was to Pastor and lead our church in Cape Town. For us, it was for Chris to become a Pastor at our church here in Lancaster, PA.
I remember her asking me, “What do you plan to do in America? Have you thought about that?” I replied, “Well, I really feel strongly to not make any immediate commitments and just take the first 6 months to settle.” She smiled kindly. I thought that taking 6 months was very self-aware and wise of me.
She looked me in the eyes and smiled. She then said in her classic, direct but caring way, “Oh, six months is just the beginning… it will take you 2-3 years. There is no way around that.”
I smiled back and thought, “Well, we’ll see.” Famous last words.
In this process I have been off social media a lot. Facebook has almost gone the way of the dinosaurs for me. I quickly realized that my “processing” posts on Facebook would elicit some very defensive Americans who felt I was being too negative about America (and felt to tell me this). So, I stepped back. I wasn’t in the place to receive criticism from people I barely talked to.
So, I have been quiet on social media but I do want to give an update for many who care and wonder how this move has been. For the many friends who have e-mailed or messaged and just never got a reply from me (forgive me!).
So, this is an update from American-land, (almost) 18 months in.
We have felt a lot of care and love from people asking about how the boys have adjusted. I would not be exaggerating to say, they have flourished. It has not been easy. They still face challenges. But they are well.
Absolutely everything was new to them. To be dropped off one day in a new school in a foreign country (remember, America was a foreign country to them)… and have Mom and Dad say, “You can do this!”. That ain’t easy.
They have figured out new schools, new friends, new church, new food, new homes, new languages (Farewell Afrikaans and Xhosa! Hola, Espanol!). In the midst of it we’ve had lots of funny moments that have made us all laugh. They have gained a full vocabulary of Mexican foods. They now know enchiladas, burritos, tostadas, quesadillas and more! They also now know that Tacos are an actual ethnic food from Mexico and not a food their mother invented in South Africa. They still drink Rooibos tea. They have never accepted the mayonnaise and bread here (“Absolutely disgusting, Mom. Why don’t they have regular mayo?”).
Church has been a highlight for them (after they got over the shock of how big and loud it was). After the first Sunday, I asked Thabo how he found church. He replied, “Well that whole experience was super American!” We both intuitively understood what he meant by that. But after the initial cross-cultural adjustments, they found their place. Both volunteer with the young kids on a weekly basis. They also attend the Youth Group, are in Small Groups and really feel a sense of belonging. We are thankful.
Garett continues to play Rugby and Soccer. Thabo continues to play Soccer and has joined a basketball team.
When hard days come, they have the dog who has been a therapy pet for us all. Well, maybe not Chris but he likes him most days.
They are doing well.
I think most people knew that I would have never chosen to leave South Africa. There was not a day in 15 years where I said, “I wish I was in America”. Not a day.
Since we have left, there has not been a day where I said, “This was the wrong move”. Not a day. That has been a grace. Every step of the way I knew, in God’s wisdom not mine, this was the right move.
In the conversation with my Pastor’s wife she said another thing that struck me in between the eyes and heart. It was this, “Lindsey, you may be moving for a job for your husband. But, He doesn’t call one person and have a plan for one to flourish. God calls you all and has a plan for all to flourish.”
Those words have not just been a hope, they have been a reality.
There are many thing that are still very unknown to me in America-land. The repeated question we got from friends and co-workers in South Africa was, “But…. But, what will YOU do Lindsey?!”
They knew I was not one to sit on the sidelines and observe life go by. I always was on the move. I took on a lot of responsibilities through the years. Always tackling challenges. I did not hide in my husbands shadow (which he loves). But the thought of moving for an opportunity for Chris and not me was strange to everyone around us.
This season has been different. I have not purposely hidden but I have been still. I needed the stillness more than I could ever comprehend 18 months ago.
I could go on forever but I’ll highlight a couple of things.
I initially settled, furnished, painted and renovated my whole house (it’s small tiny addiction I have). I got the kids on their way with school and sports. I got a counselor.
I’ve always valued having a counselor in my life but this one has been different. She had a skill set that I needed. I go very regularly and haven’t slowed down for a year. I’ve cried a lot (well, for me). I knew I had a lot of pain that needed attending to. It has not been comfortable or pleasant.
The internal and emotional shift that has happened has been significant far beyond my expectations. I won’t go into detail here since it’s not really your business:) But, if we moved to America only for this… it would have been worth it for me. Healing and health feels good. I’ve still got a ways to go. The distance I’ve travelled so far has been significant.
For the last 10+ years I have struggled with chronic pain. This involved regular and increasingly frequent migraines. Constant and overwhelming muscle tension in my neck and scalp. The pain had become so frequent and constant that I was in significant pain about 90% of the time. My life had sadly come to that.
Moving countries is not helpful for chronic pain sufferers. Even with my prescription medication, which I took daily, I had to go to the ER a few times. The last few years I had grieved my new reality and accepted that this would be the rest of my life. I could write a book on how chronic pain had altered my life and relationships. I had made use of every medical doctor and intervention possible.
I’ll save you from the book for now. But, today as I sit here, I haven’t taken pain or migraine medication in 5 weeks. In the last 5 months I’ve taken it a total of about 10 times (compared to daily before). I’ve learned a lot about chronic pain through counseling, reading books and other crucial conversations.
My counselor told me one day, “If you had just described your life to me, I could have told you in detail your physical reality. None of this is a surprise.” I learned the physical impact my emotional life has had on my body. There has been a lot of sadness around the loss of healthy years.
By the pure grace of God a friend texted me one day and said, “Hey, I just read about this phone App for chronic pain sufferers. I’m going to check it out, you should to.” I did check it out and realized it was exactly what I needed.
I’m not trying to be a used car salesman (although this company has my forever undying love). It’s just the truth, this app has changed my life. Words I never dreamed I would say. It is a resource that is based on all the science behind how chronic pain actually works in our bodies. It is hard work. It has been a process. It has been a grace to me.
All this to say, between the tool of Curable and my counseling, I’m healed. I am in that stage where I wake up each day and still think, “Wait, I’m not feeling any pain. What?!”. I don’t think the shock of being pain-free will wear off any time soon.
Not only that, going off all my medication has been phenomenal as it affected my mental and physical clarity more than I realized.
Once again, if we moved to America for this, I’d do it a million times over.
My husband is amazing. I just have to add this. He has taken on a new job with courage and skill. He has walked alongside the boys and I with compassion and grace. As always, he has supported me every step of the way. In this process, not once did he say anything but, “Take your time, Babe, there’s no rush to be anywhere but where you are.” More than once he has asked, “So, when is your next counseling appointment?” Ha!
In closing. For those asking, “Ok Lindsey, wonderful news! But what are you doing with your days and what are you going to do with your life?!” (I do get asked that exact question often).
I don’t feel the need to run my schedule by you but I do want to say, I’m happy. I’m not panicked about finding the answer. No, I don’t have a job. I haven’t found my niche yet. But, I’m content. My days are pretty full doing this, that and the other.
I am feeling more ready to answer the question, “Ok, what do I want to do?” I’m glad I haven’t rushed the process.
God didn’t call one, he called all four of us. I know this.
God’s plans for flourishing are not for one, they are for all four of us. I know this, too.
Greetings from America-land. I’m glad I’m here.