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Withdrawing from the crowd

In last week’s newsletter, I mentioned that I had recently closed my Twitter account and promised to talk about that more this week.

Unlike my departure from Facebook, the decision to do so wasn’t nearly as difficult for me. The draw of Twitter for me initially was for business purposes, and morphed somewhat over the years. On that platform, I enjoyed the ability to communicate concisely—both in what I tweeted and in the tweets I read from others.

However, while such concise communication can be powerful when the words are carefully selected, it can also be a destructive dynamic when those few words are taken out of context. This unfortunate trend seems to be growing in our world today.

I’ve read stories about the far-reaching damage created by those who take a single social media post, tweet, like, or follow, and twist them to meet the needs of an agenda.

Honestly, that stuff makes me sad.

Taking a step back

As I became increasingly aware of the potential for even the most benign words or actions to be taken out of context in this way, I decided to take a step back and evaluate why I was even there.

To evaluate both the positive and negative power of social media—which didn’t even exist in its current form when we were stepping into the 21st century.

After all, Facebook has only been in existence since 2004; Twitter has only been around since 2006; and Instagram launched just a decade ago—in 2010 (Instagram was acquired by Facebook in 2012).

Although the number of users varies among these three popular platforms, they have all become powerful forces within today’s global societies—sometimes for good, and sometimes not so much.

Unfortunately, the user-generated content on social media seems increasingly charged with negative emotion within the divisive dynamics of our society today.

Additionally, algorithms used by such platforms (not just these three, but most online entities) mean that users don’t necessarily have control over who sees what they post or over what posts show up in their feeds.

Stepping away from the noise

I’m blessed with a peaceful life. We have a loving and simple home in which we savor the quiet and wide open spaces of the countryside that surrounds us.

In that context, I realize that when I get online or turn on the news, it is I who opens the door to all the negative noise and inflammatory rhetoric that seems to be everywhere today.

When he was here, Jesus experienced a lot of noise, too.

There were times when he was really popular, and had crowds following him everywhere to hear his powerful words and make the most of his healing touch.

Of course, he also experienced a lot of negative noise, too.

One way Jesus dealt with all of that was to step away from the noise to spend time with the Father in prayer.

In Matthew 14, there are two instances described in which Jesus does this.

The first was in response to negative noise—the death of John the Baptist: “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place” (v.13)

The second was in response to positive noise. After ministering all day to a crowd of 5000, miraculously feeding them all with two fish and five loaves of bread, and then dismissing both the crowd and his disciples, “…he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray” (v. 23).

In both cases, Jesus demonstrates the essential need to withdraw from the crowd and step away from the noise on a regular basis in order to find renewal in the presence of the Father.

Seeking sustenance that lasts

Jesus didn’t seek his strength from positive approval ratings or follower numbers. He knew many could and would turn on him when faced with opposition or something more shiny than what discipleship required.

He also knew that the spiritual clarity, perpetual renewal, and lasting sustenance he needed could only come from one Source—and he made it a habit of spending time with the Father to tap into it.

I believe we all need to do more of the same today.

At least I know I do.

The clarity and answers to what our world needs won’t be found within the clamor and high emotions of the day.

They’ll be found within quiet communion with Jesus where we can most clearly hear his voice through the power of the Holy Spirit.

So, I’m aiming to withdraw from the crowd more consistently to do that.

And shedding another social media account is part of that process.

By doing so, I hope to have something helpful to say when I do engage with the people I specifically want to engage with to provide encouragement and support.

In places like this.

With friends like you.

Thank you for being here.

Feature photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash.

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