Saturday, July 21, 2012

Ode to the Internet


This is part of a series on Stones of Remembrance as I remember the hand of God in my life.


Around the turn of the century my family finally went "online." We dialed-up our connection through Juno and had a monthly allotment of minutes. I more than used my share of the family's minutes reading and posting and interacting with "strangers" on a small Christian message board I had found by entering "I love Jesus" into dogpile.com or AskJeeves.com during the pre-Google-centric web.

That little piece of the internet was instrumental in my life and the initiation of a greater domino effect. The posts people wrote challenged me to think outside of my own view of the world and of God. It was the first place I discovered people who lived out their love for God in different ways than me. I met people there who became friends (and that doesn't sound near as weird today as it did in the year 2000 when "friends" and "internet" in the same sentence made you sound like a weirdo). There are a few of those people with whom I still regularly interact and I've met some in person. The message board is still there though I haven't posted in years. I'll forever be grateful for that little piece of the internet.

I was introduced to the idea of blogging, or an online journal/diary as it was called then, through a member of this message board.

I started blogs/diaries at a couple of members-only blog sites. This introvert who loves to process things through writing found a way to pour out my thoughts, the boring details of my day, and all the dramas big and small of my life to a surprisingly supportive audience.

Over ten years of online journaling has allowed me to know a small group of women whom I count among my closest friends and wise spiritual council. I hesitate to name them for a I know I won't name them all, but I do want to be a little specific, for you see, this is one of the only communities in my life that has remained relatively constant. There is my immediate family, my closest friends (that I didn't first know online ) and then these women. They know my story and I know their's. We have cried together over broken relationships, lost babies, and parents gone too soon. We have rejoiced at weddings, births, jobs, homes, and goals achieved. Our lives have criss-crossed across continents and oceans. Many of us wrote through our college years and those scary first steps into the real world. Those of who can, see each other in person when the opportunity arises. (I've been blessed to have a few of these women in my home, and wish I could have us all over at the same time for dinner!) We have been brutally honest about our flaws, rejoiced with abandon about our victories, and have let each other be the first to "hear" those precious things that were easier to write rather than say.

People say you can be fake online, and you can, but you can also be achingly authentic. That is a beautiful gift of this pseudo-anonymity that can become community if you let it. These women are a vital part of my encouragement and my spiritual community.

Way-back-when when the Internet was a new thing and scary to many people, I heard a Christian leader say, "If you're on the Internet at 1 a.m. then you're doing something you shouldn't be." My face flushed with embarrassment and shame, I became momentarily sad and questioned the places of community I had found. I soon realized that while the speaker had good intentions warning people away from the potential evil found in the anonymity and secrecy of the world wide web, he had no idea the type of beauty, knowledge, grace, and community that could be found on the screens that connected the world.

This stone of remembrance is for the Internet and its profoundly positive effect on my Christian faith.


Other Stones of Remembrance:
Scripture in My Childhood
The Church That Built Me
Friendship
Meeting Together
When You Return: Faith Refined



10 comments:

  1. This is so great. It really is amazing the friends and community you can create and have online. The online world can be such a blessing.

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  2. me ME me :) totally met you online, and then in person, and you are as wonderful in real life as you are on the message board <3 I love being your friend.

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    1. Aw, thanks! I'm so glad we met online and in real life! Sometimes I forget I met you online, lol, since you live so close!

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  3. Aww, this such a great post!! ME!! I am one of those you met online and in person!

    I remember when I first got online too.. I don't remember what service we had first, but shortly we moved to AOL. I had a Juno email too. And I was a chat room pro. haha

    And yes - I've heard comments about the late night internet time similar to what you said here, and I thought "this person just doesn't get it".

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    1. Ooh, chat rooms, those scared me. Lol.

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  4. It never ceases to amaze me the things God uses to put us where we need to be. I too am so blessed to be a part of such a wonderful small group of women. To share our lives and feel so connected has been a constant source of strength and stability for me. I count it an honor to be one of those women you've met online and in person. Yes one day I hope we can all sit across the table from one another. I can almost hear the roar of conversation and joint laughter. :-)

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    1. One of us needs to become a multi millionaire and sponsor this dinner thing. since well all have to travel, me might as well rent a villa in the south of France or something for the occasion.

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  5. I consider it a blessing to know you. I'm thankful we met online and have had the chance to meet in real life. I look forward to seeing you again one day. Its amazing how God makes our paths cross.

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  6. Not sure how I missed this post. I should not have! Thanks for being a dear friend through all those teen years... the ones I filled with horrendous writing and heartfelt words. You always inspired me- and you still do. :)

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