Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Or don’t judge a place by it’s Instagram photo. Or it’s lack of an Instagram photo, I guess.
My classmates and I just spent a day together, away from the Seminary, getting ready for our next big step in formation, our Institution to the Ministry of Acolyte. Every class had the chance to find a retreat center off campus, with a priest of our choice to lead us. My class found ourselves out at a place where I took no photos, from which I sent no Tweets, and of which I won’t even give you the name (even though some of you may already know…).
Does that mean it wasn’t worth an Instagram, or too cheap even for a Tweet, or too secret to be named?
I dare say it was rather too valuable for all that.
Look, I enjoy Instagram and the beauty that can be shed through it, and Twitter and Facebook are great ways to get out that thought that has moved my heart and that I think others would like to hear. But we’ve got to be careful sometimes, unless we start thinking, right when God’s trying to move our hearts, and move our hearts alone for our sake, that we wish we had our cameras, we wish we had internet connection, we wish someone could see what we’re seeing, right here and right now. Then it’s really easy to lose the moment, to miss God’s voice as he whispers to us in that silence, “This moment is my gift to you.”
I could have taken my phone with me up to the cemetery that sat quietly on top of the winding, dusty dirt road, where there lay dozens of the monks who had given their lives and deaths to this small piece of heaven on earth. I could have Tweeted out their names in memoriam, or Snapchatted the breathtaking view of the dry hills and valley that stretched out of sight from the altar on that cemetery hill, on which have probably been said many grateful and tearful Masses for those now bound to that land like they had never been before. Perhaps I cold even have checked-in on Facebook at that hilltop, just so that any of you could know right where I was, when I was there, and who I was with.
But no, I have no photos, no comments, no reminder on my phone about the weather and how cold it was. What I’ve got though is my memories and the way my imagination plays with the colors of the hills and the sky at sunrise, with the long choruses of silence before and after Mass, before the Blessed Sacrament, or wandering around in the desert landscape.
I like to think Jesus spoke about God kind of like that. He walked through the wilderness, through the meadows covered in colors more splendid that the robes of King Solomon (Matt 6:28-29). He new firsthand how hard it was to farm the rough, dry land, and how rewarding was the harvest (Mark 4:3-8). He got his hands dirty, danced and sang his heart out, cried very real tears and shouted out very real cries. He loved this life and knew how beautiful it could be, and he loved to talk about it and share it with those who would listen.
So, no, social media is not a bad thing. But sometimes we’ve got to put it down, let our imagination hold onto and play with the most beautiful things we see, the funniest things we hear, the most painful moments of our day. Then we just might not miss that moment when God whispers quietly in our own ears, “I made this moment for you, just for you, so you might know Me.”