Clap Back Christians

The fruit of the Spirit is wit, argumentation, debate, narcissism, opinions, clap backs. Against such things there is no law. 

When I survey my heart, our churches, and fellow believers on social media, these things seem to be the core of the Christian way of life.

Long gone are the ways of Jesus that are outlined in Galatians 5, which I woefully misquoted just a moment ago. Instead of being loving, patient, and kind, we bicker incessantly over the most minuscule things. Instead of being self-controlled, we have to get our opinion out about everything at every moment. Man alive, I fight this in my heart (never perfectly) every day. I see something in the news, or on social media, and I just have to have a good response to it.

What has become of our witness? Is our rudeness, flippancy, and sarcasm really drawing people to Jesus (not to mention drawing them to come to a different conclusion in regard to any debate we are facilitating)?

Now, I am not saying that being vocal on Facebook or Instagram or whatever form of social media you’re on in regard to faith or even other things is detrimental to the Kingdom of God.

But the way we go about sharing these things is so crucially important.

If you scoured my social media, you’d see (I think) very little regarding hot button issues. Last Summer I got into a fit of anger and posted a vehement, unfair take on gun control. Since then, I’ve felt led by God to keep my opinions to myself, to private discussions, to gentle conversations. You’ll never see me posting about politics. Come talk to me about it, sure. But you’re not going to get a vocal, public, social media take on these things.

I honestly am proud of myself, that by God’s grace I haven’t said a word about Covid-19 policies. I’ve just said that life sucks sometimes and we can cling to Jesus.

For whatever reason, we prize the well-argued posts. I’ve seen countless Christans (including me) say things on social media that they would never say to someone’s face.

Souls are not won through social media arguments.

Souls are won by living in such a way that illuminates the kindness, gentleness, love, and patience of Jesus. Souls are won by being self-controlled. Not every debate is worth getting into. Not very conversation needs to get a response from us.

I fall into the habit of thinking that I need to vocalize my voice into every topic, every scenario, every hot button issue.

I think, “If I don’t, who will?”

Maybe, just maybe, we can let things slide.

Now, I’m on social media often. My side ministry of Roach Ramblings is social-media driven. I’m on it. But social media is ultimately not the place for the transformation of lives through argumentation.

I love the take that Jesus engaged the false teachings of the 1st century world during His life and ministry. I love that take because it misses the mark (in my opinion, which is often in fact wrong). The mission of Jesus (as shown to us in the Gospel accounts) was not to debate the religious leaders of the day or to correct heresy. Now, these arguments happened as people were stupid enough to engage God Himself in debate. But Jesus did not seek them out in a malicious, self-absorbed way. The God of the universe in human flesh did not feel the need to correct every errant belief, every errant political view (He in fact doesn’t seem to care much at all about this besides teaching submission and humility). He did not go about the countryside engaging false teachings or interpretations of the Torah.

He went about preaching the Kingdom of God. He went about healing the sick. He went about performing miracles. He wasn’t sarcastic. He wasn’t clapping back at others.

I see in us the tendency to disrespect our elders who we disagree with. Gone are the days of charitable disagreement. Rather we must now be quick to degrade, whether intentionally or unintentionally those who we disagree with.

Church, enough is enough.

Brother or sister in Christ, enough is enough.

May we live with a profound kindness. A profound gentleness. A profound self-control. May our church’s false gods of sarcasm, wit, and argumentation come down. May we again uplift the qualities of the Spirit of God in our lives and in our words, digital or otherwise.

Let me close with the real fruit of the Spirit as written down in Galatians 5.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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Nothing To Brag About

Do you brag a lot?

I do.

Do you brag about your accomplishments, your accolades, your abilities?

I do.

Going through my high school and college years at the same time that social media exploded, I lived in a time where bragging was normal, even encouraged.

Only recently, through conversations with men who care about me, and through time in God’s Word, I’ve learned just how foolish that is.

But it sure is hard not to sometimes.

It’s how many of us are wired. Our wicked hearts want glory. Our wicked hearts want praise.

A couple moments last year illustrated just how hungry for human praise I am. One happened over the summer.

Our student ministry had home groups over the summer in lieu of normal youth group. This was done to build community and camaraderie amongst all of our students. It was a great time.

Well, Jamie and I live in a duplex (Until March 9th! We just bought a house!), and so we outgrew that space. We had to start having our Sunday night home group at the church instead of in our home.

This was purely the work of God.

But I wanted to let people know about the 0% of it that was my doing.

So I snapped a couple photos and then posted them on our Facebook with a caption of “Look what God is doing! We outgrew our space! #Blessed” or something like that. The classic humble brag. Drawing attention to growth in our youth group. I’m not saying that my heart or intentions were to manipulate or to draw attention to myself. But if I’m being honest, that was probably part of it.

We all do it.

We all pride ourselves on our abilities, our accomplishments, our accolades.

Last week, I was reading in Jeremiah. And a passage leaped off the page and punched me in the gut. Metaphorically speaking.

This is what the Lord says:

“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,”

declares the Lord.

– Jeremiah 9:23-24

Wow. What a powerful word.

The wise aren’t to boast in their wisdom. The rich aren’t to boast in their riches. The strong aren’t to boast in their strength.

The only thing the people of God have to boast in?

That they have the understanding (from God) to know God. The God who exercises kindness, justice, and righteousness (all of which He delights in). That’s it! That’s the only thing they have to boast in.

Man, I wish we read the prophets more. I understand why most people don’t. There are some hard indictments against the people of God in these passages. Some tough love. Some parts of Scripture that we want to avoid. We want the God who loves, but we don’t want the love of God that leads to rebuke. We want to feel happy any time we read Scripture, we don’t want to be corrected.

When I put my social media posts up against this passage, I am quickly shown just how prone to prideful boasting I am.

Now, I’m not saying that we can never show other people our accomplishments. It’s how we show them. It’s how we present them. It’s why we’re presenting them.

What’s our motivation?

For instance, a great young man I’ve been meeting and hanging out with over the last year was in a stock show in San Antonio this weekend. Now, although I live in a country town, I know literally nothing about stock shows. So, I’m not sure what it all means but he won a big award this weekend. His mom shared about it on Facebook, praising God, praising her son, and praising the tribe that was in his corner throughout this whole process. There was nothing wrong with that in my mind at all.

However, recently, I preached on a Sunday morning at my church. I quickly went to Facebook and posted about it, hoping to rake in heart emojis and praise for my preaching abilities.

My motivation was askew.

My motivation was to obtain glory and praise for myself, not the Lord.

So, what about you?

What’s your motivation?

What is your motivation for the things you share on Facebook? What is the motivation for the things you bring up in conversation? If you’re pointing to yourself a lot, like I do, you’re likely operating in a place of pride that the Bible confronts here in this passage.

However, if you’re striving to point to others and to point to Jesus, then you’re in the right place.

The only thing we have in life to brag about is the fact that God allows us to have a relationship with Him by His grace.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

Redeeming Social Media

I’m hesitant to write anything about social media these days because, for the most part, I don’t participate in any of it. But for the sake of transparency, here is my short history of social media.

I’ve been on most major social media platforms since 2006, which is when I got my first Facebook account. I’ve had a few Twitter accounts, a couple Instagram accounts, and I had a mad SnapChat streak going with a friend for over half a calendar year. But as of now, I only have a minimal Facebook page and a LinkedIn. So that’s that.

Now before I move on, I want to say I believe most anything* can be redeemed for the Kingdom of God. I believe our work, our rest, our play, our entertainment, our habits, our hobbies can be used for that sake of loving God and loving others. (*I say “most anything” because I’m not sure how explicitly sinful activities can be redeemed, although I know God can bring about, in a way, redemption out of those activities.)

I want to also lay this foundational assumption of the way everything works. I believe everything, yes, everything, forms us. Everything forms us, molds us, makes us. From morning to night, from night to morning, we are forming and being formed by everything that’s around us. For example, when I make a salad, the salad is forming my body (in a healthy way). But when I make a bowl of ice cream, the ice cream is forming my body (in a, let’s say, different way).

James K.A. Smith’s You Are What You Love is where I stole (acquired) this idea. So if you want to read more about this idea about everything as formative, then buy it and read it for yourself. In fact, it’s so good I would be willing to buy it for you.

OK, so far we determined:

  1. I have used and currently do use social media.
  2. I believe in the ability for Jesus to redeem most anything in creation.
  3. Everything in the world forms us to some end in some way.

Now, let’s talk about two distinct yet related ways that social media forms you. And I am going to use Instagram as a clear example. This is not to raise it higher or drag it lower than any other forms of social media. It’s just a way to make this all more concrete.

Two of the many ways a social media platform like Instagram forms you are: (1) It increases your desire for novelty, and (2) it increases your desire for sensuality.

First, Instagram is intentionally designed to cause you to become addicted to it. This is not-so-subtly because of advertisements. Instagram makes money when it sells ad spaces. Economics lesson over. Everything about the platform is meticulously crafted to usher you into an mindless habit of swiping and tapping and swiping and tapping and swiping and tapping. We become Olympian-like in our ability to swipe and tap so much that we do with ease it while operating an oversized bullet moving at 75 miles per hour.

How? In short, Instagram plays into our biological and neurological essence to trigger positive emotions based on novelty. We desire new pictures. It’s that simple. We want to see something new every time we open the application. If you saw the same picture on the top of your Instagram feed whenever you opened the app, you would be less inclined to open the app.

Second, Instagram as a visual media is particularly designed to play into our natural, sensual desires. OK, Economics lesson again: Sex sells. Economic lesson over. You know it’s true. Just watch literally anything. I mean there are too many examples. You were probably lured into tapping on an advertisement just five minutes ago because of some really good looking guy or gal wearing sunglasses that you can’t tell if they’re taking them off or putting them on. But woh those are some good looking shades.

To be sure, I am not immune to these “ideas” because I’m aware of them. I think studies have shown the opposite can be true in many cases. I might be more inclined to succumb to social media tricks simply because I am aware of what’s going on. To be honest, that’s one of the many reasons I don’t have many social media accounts anymore. It’s simply too enjoyable.

So what does all of this have to do with following Jesus?

Well, I’ll tell you by referencing Matthew 5:27-28:

“You have heard that it was said, Do not commit adultery. But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. – Matthew 5:27-28

Adultery?

Yes, I’m talking about adultery. Why?

In Russell Moore’s Storm-Tossed Family, he mentions briefly that affairs are often had because of a desire for novelty. Yes, novelty, especially in all things, obviously, sexual.

So, let’s just say novelty does play a large role in affairs. And let’s say based on Jesus’s words that affairs are not just having sex with someone who is not your spouse. Affairs can be in your heart, and they’re not just restricted to married people either. This is some difficult stuff to consider.

But what does this have to do with social media, including Instagram?

It’s this:

Everything forms us. Instagram forms us by engaging, rewarding, and enhancing our innate desires for novelty and sensuality. Desires for novel sensual experiences drive affairs. Therefore, Instagram is forming us to have affairs.

And recall, affairs can be had in your heart whether or not you’re married.

If you are serious about following Jesus, you need to deeply consider what he has to say about how to resist the temptation to sexual sin.

Jesus also says this:

“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” – Matthew 5:29-30

Please hear me out on this. I am not saying every Jesus follower needs to “cut off their hand,” i.e., delete their social media accounts or toss your smartphone to be recycled properly. I am saying if you claim to follow Jesus, and I pray I’m doing the same thing–if there is a log in my eye in this, please point it out for me–please consider his intense hatred of sexual sin and his command to cut yourself off from anything that might cause you to sin.

Can you use social media, namely Instagram, to bring about redemption? Yes. Certainly, please do that. Please do that for the millions of people on Instagram. Please exemplify Jesus there. Post pictures of Bible verses. Post pictures of you enjoying creation. Post pictures of your small group sharing a meal. Post pictures of you spending time with your spiritual family and biological family. Please. Be light and salt on Instagram.

But I equally beg you to consider if Instagram is worth having if it sends your whole body to hell.

For me, my proclivity to lust and greed and jealousy was too much to have an Instagram. It’s too much for me to watch certain movies and TV shows and YouTube videos. I’m a weaker brother. I really am.

And if you are strong enough to bring about God’s Kingdom online and be a faithful witness, stay on social media. But if you are weak like me in these regards, please delete your account.

Social media is a discipleship issue. It’s a spiritual issue. It’s a life or death issue.

Whatever you choose, I pray your faith would increase ten-fold as you follow Jesus.
– Matt Welborn

Making The Bed

Throughout Christian history, the people of God have been formed, built up in, and strengthened by creeds and confessions of the faith. These were recited in families, church fellowships, and communities as a way to be catechized (taught) in the historic Christian faith.

We are also catechized by our world. Our culture is telling us all of the time how we are to behave, what we are to live for. There are daily habits that we all feel drawn towards and pulled into that are the result of subconscious daily formation via the world we live in. The biggest right now is easily the most obvious (I feel like a broken record saying this). We are taught to put everything on social media, to fight the silence by staring at our phones, and to put up a front whether that is our intention or not.

The most eye-opening event when it came to this was when I first got back from Phoenix. My fiancée Jamie and I went to dinner with one of my closest childhood friends and his wife. He asked me how my year in Phoenix was and when I opened up about the difficulties that I had at the church he was genuinely surprised saying that ‘everything you’ve put on Facebook made it seem like a great experience’. This wasn’t done intentionally by me at all, in fact via this blog I made a lot of my struggles at the church public. Yet my friends back home saw a picturesque experience where it was quite the opposite in many ways.

My generation does a poor job of handling this obsession with social media. However, the former generation doesn’t seem to fair too much better. I remember being at a men’s Bible study in Phoenix where every person around the table was on their phone at some point during the forty minute experience (except for me and my roommate Matt). The call of their individual business or family responsibilities was in that moment greater than the call of God’s Word. This is not a millennial problem. This is an everyone problem. We have all been formed, discipled, and catechized into thinking that to put our phones up for even a short period of time is to make ourselves unavailable to the world and thus perhaps less important.

I feel the weight of this at any family event. Is it enough to enjoy the treasured moments with siblings and parents, or am I obliged to post some picture of it so that everyone else can know just how much fun I had? I have been discipled into believing that without making my moment with family public I am not enjoying life to its fullest. When boiled down, that’s exactly what we are being taught. The fullness of life is found in making every private or intimate family or relationship moment public for other people to like, comment on, etc. This has caused people I know to literally Facebook Live their kitchen meal prep. I know others who make public their children’s tantrums, fits, problems. I know others who make their kids’ successes just as public. Previous generations had bumper stickers, we have Facebook posts. I myself struggle with making private moments of hilarity or doofusness public on social media. We have been discipled into believing that making a public spectacle of private moments is normal, necessary, and fulfilling.

In her book, Liturgy of the Ordinary, Tish Harrison Warren talks about how the start of our days are incredibly important when it comes to how we live and view our days.

Push as hard as the age that pushes against you. – Flannery O’Connor

Warren offers the making of one’s bed as a way to start our days, as opposed to incessant phone use. But it can be any number of liturgical and rhythmic routines that can orient our minds and hearts toward godliness rather than the lies of our age.

Evaluate what you do with your day, especially in the stillness and quiet moments. More often than not, where you go in the quiet is what you’re living for. You are being formed in ways that are beneficial to your spiritual growth, as well as ways that are not. Think through your routines and habits.

I know that when I conclude my day in prayer with Jamie, I am prone to wake up more spiritually aware, more focused on eternal matters in the day ahead. I know that when I spend two hours watching TV or playing Playstation, I am prone to head into the next day needing to be entertained, focused on the here and now. Our practices throughout our days establish us. It is thus incredibly important that we don’t drift through our days unaware of what we’re living for.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:2 

My mind isn’t renewed if I give myself no time to sit with God and do just that.

Be aware of what you live for.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Where’s The Love?

I walked up to the youth room to get ready for youth group and came to notice that all the chairs were messed up for another week. Instead of having them in neat, well-manicured rows, they were in piles in the corner of the room. I frustratingly put them all back. This transpired for several weeks and my ire grew. I finally wrote a note and left it for whomever was using the room to please put everything back. I tried my best to be respectful in the letter, yet I realize that I was annoyed. What took place after that has been convicting and encouraging.

It’s a bummer sometimes that I notice after the fact how God gives me a perfect opportunity to immediately apply what I’ve been learning in Scripture to my life and I just don’t capitalize. This scenario was one such opportunity missed.

The last few weeks I’ve been attending an early morning Bible study here in town with a handful of men from the church I work at. We’ve been slowly, and I mean slowly, walking through Romans. Since I’m new to the study we’re already in Romans 12. We were dialoging just the other week about Romans 12:9-18.

Love must be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Be in agreement with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible on your part, live at peace with everyone. 

Wowza. That is a tough passage to measure up to for sure. Too many of our churches are full of infighting, disrespect, gossip, and slander. Too often my heart is prone to those things as well. Yet as Christians we should be fighting for one another, not against one another. We should be striving to love, bless, rejoice with, weep with, honor, respect, and be hospitable towards all who are in our faith community.

Instead, what tends to happen? When relational friction occurs, we go to other members of the church to talk all about it (seeking counsel and gossiping are decidedly different things, and we all know the difference). When someone else gets their way instead of us in something church-related or life-related we may put up a facade but are we actually rejoicing with them? For those who have any type of leadership in the church (elders, pastors, deacons, Sunday school teachers, etc.), are we loving our people or are we trying to control them?

Like I said, this passage is a lot to live up to.

And in this situation, I didn’t.

Instead of striving to respect, honor, and love those who were using the youth room, I instead got all bent out of shape for having to spend an extra seven minutes getting ready on Wednesday nights. Instead of trying to figure out who was using the room and approaching them in kindness, I hid behind a note and their anonymity.

They responded (I still don’t even know who was using the room) with love, respect, and kindness above and beyond that which I was hoping for. The day following my note they put the chairs back, put the cords to the Tv on the right inputs for my youth slides, put up all the Bibles on the shelf, vacuumed, wiped down the counters, and cleaned some downstairs as well.

I was amazed that they would go to that extent in showing love to me and our youth.

That love shines bright in the darkness of our societal and cultural norms. What I mean by this is that we live in a culture saturated with disrespect, disdain, and division. I can hardly stand to get on social media anymore as it breaks my heart that there is so much hatred in our world. One cannot disagree with another anymore without attacking them, slandering them, making fun of them, clapping back at them, or generally mocking them. It’s heartbreaking. Kids disrespecting leaders, those leaders disrespecting kids. Neighbors and ‘friends’ engaged in hateful speech towards each other, getting extra points if they’re particularly witty in their comebacks. This very week I read a comment thread where even politicians did just this.

In a world of hate and division, loving and honoring and respecting each other will go a super long way. Especially in the local church. We of all people should be the brightest example of love, even in the midst of not seeing eye to eye on all things.

Let’s all be more like this anonymous group of people that have been cleaning the youth room for our students.

Let’s love.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

iHeart

For the last year or so I’ve had a growing disdain for all things technological. Let me rephrase that. I’ve had a growing disdain for the way I’ve allowed myself to be controlled by all things technological. So, as of two short days ago, I’ve begun trying to implement strategies so that my foolish self won’t be so prone to addiction to these tiny boxes of information we call smart phones. iphone-addiciton

So I bought an alarm clock.

You see, that was my go to excuse for having my phone in my bed. I needed it as an alarm. Now that argument is invalid.

For the last two evenings, I’ve enjoyed honestly tremendous freedom, tremendous peace and rest with my Creator. I know it sounds somewhat laughable, but putting my phone up before bed and until after I shower in the mornings has been like a mini retreat of sorts.

I’m far from there when it comes to setting aside technology for rest. But I am glad to be making steps in the right direction.

Not every one will come to the same conclusions about technology. My purpose for this blog post is not to tell you guys to become more like me. Because that would be stupid, because I can be stupid. Instead, I’m wanting us all as a community of faith to consider our rhythms, routines, and habits. We rarely stop and consider in our culture why we do the things we do. I’ve only recently begun to stop and consider my technological habits.

Why should we as followers of Christ consider our habits?

This passage (among many):

How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping Your word. I have sought You with all my heart; don’t let me wander from your commands. I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You. – Psalm 119:9-11

Here’s the deal. It all starts with the heart when it comes to our walk with the Lord.

H.B. Charles Jr. says it like this:

The matter of the heart is usually the heart of the matter.

Solomon would say it like this:

Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life. – Proverbs 4:23

Our hearts are the center of our intellect, emotions, and volition. From our hearts springs all of our thoughts, emotions, and actions. Because of this, we must protect it. Because of this, we must guard it. And oh my goodness no this has little to do with dating or courting, it has everything to do with what we fill our hearts with throughout the day. Scripture tells us our hearts are wicked. Naturally, left to our own devices, apart from Christ, we have wicked and ugly hearts. Now when I spend hours a day on social media and/or Netflix, which most of the time aren’t honoring a Biblical worldview, then it’s no wonder my heart strays into broken thinking and ungodly actions.

Here’s the deal.

I’m a moron. To be honest, you kinda are too (I understand if you check out here).

We are all prone to depart from what we know is right. We are all prone to abandon Scriptural beliefs for cultural ones.

Look back at the passage from Psalm 119. Do you want to live a pure life? This means much more than just sexual purity. This means holistically applying the Bible to all of your life. Do you desire that? Then keep His Word. How do we keep His Word if we don’t spend time in it?

I imagine a day where I’m devoting all of my down time to growing closer to the Lord through prayer, Scripture memory, Bible study, and family worship.

Now, God gave us good things. He gave us hobbies and ways to unwind at the end of the day. Here’s the question though. Is it beneficial for you?

 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. – 1 Corinthians 6:12

This blog post is not intended to be anti-media or anti-entertainment. It is rather intended to be pro-spiritual growth. So we need to each ask ourselves what hobbies and habits are beneficial for our individual spiritual growth.

That means that for me, I can’t have my phone in bed at night or in the morning. I can’t. You can. You may very well have way more self-control than me and be able to not spend hours on it between the sun setting and the sun rising. But for me, I’m not disciplined enough. It is not sinful to have my phone in my bed, but I find myself mastered by it and thus it is not beneficial.

Look one more time with me at Psalm 119:10.

I have sought You with all my heart; don’t let me wander from your commands. – Psalm 119:10

Devotion and humility.

That is what it takes to cling to Christ and grow spiritually. The Psalmist seeks God with all his heart, with deep devotion. In the same breath though he humbly acknowledges His need for Christ to cling to him. Don’t let me wander from your commands.

Let this be our prayer as followers of Christ. Let us seek Christ with devotion. Let us acknowledge that we need him to hold us tight, to keep us from straying.

Here’s a novel idea for all of us. It’s difficult to stray from Him when you’re focused on communing with Him each day. Hide His word in your heart.

My last rant is about the rat race. Don’t get caught up in it. We behave unconsciously via what we’re told is the way to behave. That’s why the thought of even putting my phone up at night before two days ago made me feel like a crazy person. Don’t listen to the culture at hand, cling to Christ.

Seek Him.

God’s Word teaches us all we need to live well.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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The Timehop Trap

What were you doing one year ago today?timehop

This has been one of the consistent marketing taglines that the app Timehop has used to reel people in. The app is super awesome. Every day you can check into the app and see all that you’ve posted on social media on that day in years past, whether that was on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

In recent months however, I have seen how dangerous of an app this can be for me personally (I’m not using this blog post to boycott the app, say that it’s sinful for followers of Christ to use, or anything disproportionately crazy like that). One of my biggest struggles is looking backwards. I don’t blame myself for that, it’s easy to do. It’s easy and natural for me (as well as many others I’m sure) to think about the what used to be, and how life was different back in the day. Nostalgia distorts. Nostalgia is not regret. Nostalgia focuses on the good that used to be and glosses over the difficult. It’s like looking at the past with rose-colored glasses on.

I have wrestled with a sin that I hadn’t been able to put into words but knew was present in my life. This struggle was put to words by the author Jen Wilkin. Jamie and I are reading through her book None Like Him, and as we read through a chapter of it this past Saturday morning, Jen spoke on the idea of ‘sinful nostalgia’:

Sinful nostalgia causes us to idolize a time when life was “better” or “simpler,” resulting in perpetual discontentment with our present circumstance. We may long for a time before bad news of some kind arrived, for a time when our health was better, when our kids were still young, or when a loved one was still alive. Life’s changing seasons can cause a natural longing for the way things used to be, and though it is not necessarily sinful, it can become so. We are allowed to grieve the loss of happy seasons, but we are not allowed to resent their loss. There is a difference between missing the past and coveting the past. The antidote for covetousness is always gratitude: We can combat a sinful love of the past by counting the gifts we have been given in the present. 

Wow. As I was reading this section aloud to Jamie on Saturday, I had to stop at the end of this paragraph. This struggle I’ve battled in my heart, especially with post-graduation blues, was called into the light. It’s easy for me to allow my acceptable grief to turn into sinful covetousness of the past.

It’s laughable how I set myself up for falling into this sinful covetousness. For close to a month, the first thing I would do in the morning when I woke up would be to lay in bed and check my Timehop. I would scroll through posts and pictures of previous years, and immediately my current state would feel insignificant or less than ideal. Immediately my heart would yearn for the ‘better’ time in my life, disregarding all the gifts that God has granted to me daily in the present. As far as the rose-colored glasses are concerned, Timehop does nostalgia’s job for it. Considering I never post on social media about anything negative, all I see from past years is the good.

Not to mention the fact that I might as well be the Israelites in the book of Exodus. God had delivered them from slavery and they responded by grumbling and proclaiming that they’d rather be back in slavery. God has delivered me from ‘slavery’ to different idols and difficult circumstances, and when I long sinfully for the past, that’s me wanting to assert myself right back into the slavery He has rescued me from.

Pay careful attention, then, to how you live – not as unwise people but as wise – making the most of the time, because the days are evil. – Ephesians 5:15-16

The days we have are numbered. They are passing. We are called by God to live wisely in our days, making much of His Name through all that we say and do. Yet I waste my days when I’m living in an attitude of sinful nostalgia.

Jen has it right when she says that the greatest way to combat this is via gratitude and thankfulness. On the extremely rare occasion, I will begin my day by writing in my journal ten things from the previous day that I’m thankful for. This is a wonderful way to begin my day, and it leaves me in awe of God’s generosity as I consider and meditate upon the fact that I deserve absolutely none of the gifts that God so generously pours into my life.

Is everything in my life just the way I want it? By no means (and that is absolutely a good thing). But everything in my life is exactly the way it is for a reason, as God uses each and every day of my existence to bring about my good and His glory.

Don’t fall into the Timehop trap (again, disclaimer: I’m not saying that Timehop is evil or wrong. When used rightly, it can be a wonderful way to reflect on God’s goodness) of wanting the past.

Be grateful for God’s gifts in the present.

In His Name,
Nathan Roach

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