This past week, I have experienced the good, the bad and the ugly of having an internet life as a pastor. The bad and ugly got pretty ugly, and I found myself having to justify my choice to have an online presence – via facebook, twitter and this blog – one that is decidedly not anonymous and certainly “out there for all to see.” The voices against having such a public public life are strong, they argue that so much is open to interpretation, that anyone can read what you write and take umbrage, that parents and youth and others can and will use anything you post against you. They argue that the internet is this strange and malleable thing that can work against you in the long run. All of this is true. While not all of these voices are from an older generation – most of them are.
As I reflected on my desire to continue with this online life of mine I felt the need to dig deeper into the “why” of it all. Why do this? Why blog using my God-given name? Why tweet every aspect of my life? Why update my facebook status to show what I’m doing and what I think about it? What is this about?
My husband and I have moved nine times in the last ten years, through four different states. Some of those stops were those three or four month interim periods when we were between jobs or schools and needed to move back in with our parents (a choice it seems that many of my generation have to make at least once.) In each of those communities, we have met life-long beloved friends, and then had to say goodbye to them. In each of those new stops it took a long long time to meet new friends with whom we connect and enjoy.
Cumulatively, in the last ten years, my husband and I have worked at a dozen different places and have finished two grad school programs (almost!) We have gotten a dog, have had two babies, have had four different cars. A lot has happened since the millennium.
But, in spite of our transience, in the last year or so since I have been on Facebook, Twitter and this blog I have re-connected with friends from as far back as high school. I have been able to see pictures of the children of some of my most beloved friends along the way – even those fresh to this world. I have been able to keep tabs on the lives of the people I love and who have loved me. I can post a status update and one of my best friends from my high school youth group who I haven’t seen in ages can respond and make me crack up. I can share an inside joke, a memory, laugh at pictures of myself from middle school. And, like this week, when necessary I can ask for prayers for family members in need – and people will come out of the woodwork and lift us up in prayer.
My life is as busy as anyone else’s – I run from meetings to pastoral visits to preschool to youth group to reading bedtime stories – and then stay up too late reading for sermons. But I can catch a quote from a conference speaker that I’m not even attending, and let it work it’s way into my Sunday morning reflection. I can start a conversation on my blog – and discuss matters trivial and existential with people who used to have those discussions with me in every place I’ve ever lived.
I have lived in my current community only a short while – and while we are making friends, slowly but surely, I feel a deep need to hang onto these conversations, pictures, snippets from those beloved people who have shored me up along the way, the ones who remind me of who I am (good and bad), the ones who keep me sane and keep me laughing. The best and easiest way I have ever been able to do that – is here, in this cyberspace home I have made for myself.
For this reason, for this tenuous connection to all my closest and dearest friends, as well as to my new ones, the connection that somehow helps me when things are lonely and hard, that solicits prayers and jokes at any time of day or night…for this reason…I’m not going anywhere. Thanks.