Seeing how much I enjoy Facebook you might find it hard to believe I wasn’t the easiest convert to sign up. I used to hear that social media is a great tool for connecting and keeping in touch with friends, but I felt I was doing okay on that front. As far as I was concerned, I had the contacts of all the people I needed to keep in touch with, on my brick phone, and an SMS every now and then in those pre-smartphone and WhatsApp days would keep us connected. We would email each other, forward jokes and use the chat window of trusty yahoo when we chanced to be online at the same time. Google and Yahoo groups for discussions with friends worked just fine and I felt sorted. What else could I possibly need?
I don’t remember exactly how I joined Facebook but the last 12 years have seen me on a spree not unlike how I might behave if someone gave me a ‘free’ credit card and set me loose in a shopping mall. It’s unlikely to happen but I know I would be all over trying out this shoe and that dress, tasting this meal and that desert and of course producing my card with a flourish for the ever-willing attendants to swipe and charge. I roam all over mall Zuckerberg stalking, liking, sharing, commenting, tagging, friending, being unfriended and sharing my long posts without so much as a long post alert. I fitted right in!
One connection led to another and now, 1,400 friends later, you will find me chatting with buddies from primary school, frenemies from high school, brethren from university and all the other places between here and there.
Committed to this platform with an almost religious zeal, I can give you the deets on who is wedding who, when and where, who got a swanky new job, who is bereaved and who has moved to which city. I know all your soapboxes– you know those topics, like politics, that bring us out guns blazing? In this sparkly world of social media where a picture is worth more than a thousand words; I also notice whose clothes are fitting better than mine, whose career is meteorically blazing from glory to glory, whose business has inked a new deal and who is eating life with a big spoon under a palm tree on a beach somewhere.
Slowly but surely, I begin to despise my ordinary hidden life, my activities don’t look exciting anymore and my achievements and blessings look small in comparison (oops that C word!). The next thing, I have lost my way in a maze of appearances, images, profiles, promotions, likes, poses, amazing angles and lighting – and I end up forgetting who I am and what I am about.
One prophet, Samuel, learnt this lesson in an unforgettable way. It was time for Israel to get a new king and God commissioned him to go and anoint one. He arrived at the residence of Mr Jesse in Bethlehem and one look at his first-born son convinced Samuel this was the new king to be. Tall and handsome, he had royalty stamped all over his appearance. But God be like – “Samuel, looks aren’t everything. Don’t be impressed with his looks and stature. I’ve already eliminated him. God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart”.
And so it was – one after another, all seven sons of Jesse were paraded and dismissed. In desperation, Samuel asked Jesse, “Is this it? Are there no more sons?“ Well, he replied, “there’s the runt. But he’s out tending the sheep.” They sent for the young David and when he arrived God said to Samuel, “Up on your feet! Anoint him! This is the one.”
What had God seen in David’s heart? The human heart weighs less than half a kilo, beats 100 thousand times a day and without it your body would quickly cease to work. The heart is also a metaphor for inner life – thinking, feeling and willing. In our world of metrics, image and appearances, it’s very easy for the inner matters of the heart to be forgotten or relegated to the bottom of the pile. It would later be said of David that he was a man after God’s own heart.
None of us needs a doctor to warn us that matters of the heart are no not to be taken lightly. We exercise, eat healthy, control our sugar intake to keep our physical heart healthy because we know the heart – though unseen – is most important. How much more the core of our inner life – our spiritual heart? Our affections, what matters most to us, who we worship and our motivations. When asked which is the most important command, Jesus said it’s to love the Lord with one’s whole heart, meaning that our affections – what we love most – must be ordered right for everything else will fall into its proper place.
Just like Samuel was mistakenly impressed by the external appearance of the sons of Jesse, we also need to remember that appearances are not everything. Much more so in our glittery sparkly world of social media. May this knowledge drive us to dig deeper beyond the glitter into the heart and matter of things. So above all, guard over the affections of your heart, for they affect all that you are… that’s where life starts.
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