I became an unintentional observer of Steve’s life as email destined for him, landed in my inbox. Somewhere, in the world of my internet provider Comcast, we ended up with a similar email address. All of that worked just fine when everything was case sensitive, but after a bit, I started to get some of Steve’s email. I learned that we had some shared values. His friends sent the same sorts of either obnoxious or sincere religious emails to him as I was receiving. I was pleased to learn that he served on a planning committee in his community. He was a connoisseur of wines and dabbled in the home made variety. When his mother died and the children were left to divide up her household belongings, I saw that his mom had raised them well. The child in charge had carefully planned out what was fair for each and had listened to their wishes. I did regularly send back emails to all senders with a note, “I think you meant this for Steve” on my reply. They promised not to send me any more, but most did.
I’m quite sure that Steve would have preferred I wasn’t observing his life in this way. He should feel good about my conclusions though. Through the messages of his friends, he showed me he was conscientious and a person whose values shaped his life. He felt a need to give back to his community. There was a degree of civic pride. When I think about it, I’m surprised at how much I learned about Steve through his email friends. I knew that I would like him as a friend.
The use of all forms of social media is revealing much about us. Who we are is shown in the “likes” we link ourselves too and the comments we approve of. What is in our hearts is revealed in a more public sphere. Whether it’s an unintended look at someone’s email or checking out a social media page, we can’t hide the values that guide our lives. The ugliness of our political divisions explode on my Facebook Feed. Pro-Trump vs Anti-Trump, Anti-Immigrant vs Pro-Immigrant, wearing masks vs not wearing masks, and it just goes and on. Every divisive issue in our politics streams on my friends posts. There seems no limit to the insults and in-your-face posts that are thrown at the other side. Not long ago, I shut my computer down in absolute despair over the posts I was seeing. I refuse to touch Twitter and its sound bite insults. But, I am no innocent on making comments. While my negative thoughts may never be found on Facebook, what I profess to believe and the comment I leave on a news article are not always the same.
Sometimes, I’m frustrated by the words which slip out of my mind and onto a page. God continues in the business of transformation though. Day by day, God works in my heart urging me to become a kinder and more loving person, to use my words with care. So, I ask God for the grace to live with integrity, to be faithful in my following of Jesus. On the days I fail, I cling to the words of an old friend who told me long ago, “that we grow in grace.” I find myself singing the lyrics to Eddie Espinosa’s song, “Change my heart oh God. Make it ever true. Change my heart oh God. May I be like You.”
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any wicked[ way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalm 139:23-24
*A Version of this post was first published as “An Unintentional Observer of a Life” June 15, 2015