At this very moment I have 199 unread emails in my inbox. Most of them are of little importance that I can quickly scan and delete (notifications of the latest sales and deals at stores and restaurants I have frequented, daily or weekly newsletters and devotionals from ministries and ministers I respect, and the occasional opportunity from a Nigerian prince), but there are a few which have subject lines that are ambiguous and, therefore, warrant a closer look (just in case they are important or urgent). Because of the internet, I am now able to interact with nearly anyone who may have an inquiry or request for intercession. What I wonderful time to be alive.
Now I have 205.
Electronic communication is a marvelous resource for this generation: you can interact with missionaries who serve halfway across the globe, engage in prayer with innumerable people despite differences in location and schedule, or encourage untold (and sometimes unknown) saints and strangers with an apt and timely word. While I still prefer a phone conversation over an email or text regarding substantive matters, many times a few digital characters are sufficient to efficiently address the details of life. Plans, which for previous generations took days or weeks to finalize, can now be ironed out in moments. What a wonderful time to be in community.
While I take the time to espouse the merits of digital dialogue, I am also aware of its dangers. In this electronic age, we have the ability to say almost anything to nearly everyone: however, immediacy can hinder introspection and sometimes some people type faster than they think, causing everything from misunderstanding (in the best scenarios) to misogyny (in the worst). In this electronic age, we have the ability to happily exist in a state of complacency: we can be tempted to read daily devotionals and peruse personal emails or posts as a substitute for real life interactions. In this electronic age, we have the ability to surround ourselves with others who share our opinions and beliefs: our electronic presence can place us in an ‘echo chamber’ of our own thoughts. Still, what a wonderful time to be engaged.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29
Email, blogs, social media – all marvelous tools to help us engage with the culture around us (and to the farthest corners of the world). But, like any tool, electronic communications must be used skillfully and wisely. And, like any tool, electronic communication must not be used exclusively. We must challenge one another to speak (with our voices and our keystrokes) with words that uplift. We must stretch ourselves to reach out to others with actual interactions and not simply react to life. We must lead with love. What a wonderful time to be a child of God.
At this point I now have 219 emails to deal with…and a whole host of people to talk with face-to-face.