A Confluence of Ideas: Love

A while ago I was pondering, I’m not sure where and don’t remember exactly when or why. The idea that I was mulling around, though, was this idea of falling in love. 

I tried looking up when this phrase or usage first came into mainstream culture but unfortunately could not find an exact source. However, I think we would all agree that this idea has become ubiquitous throughout America. The idea of falling in love has been taken up by the entertainment industry and it has been ingrained in us that it is romantic to do so. Not only is it romantic, though, it is actually the objective of life. We are led to believe that falling in love is imperative to a great relationship and that if we don’t feel this way then it must, as a matter of fact, not be love. 

Putting this thought aside, I didn’t dwell on it too much. That is until I broke into a chapter in a new book that I am reading by Voddie Baucham Jr. In this chapter he confronted four myths about love. He outlined the myths as defining love as a random, overwhelming, uncontrollable, and sensual force. In words much better than I can conjure, he went on to debunk these myths one by one and ended up with a definition of love that defines it as “an act of the will accompanied by emotion that leads to action on behalf of its object.”

There is no hint of “falling” in this definition. In fact, I found that this was a perfect explanation of what I was trying to get around to in my previous thinking. Love is nothing to be passive about. There indeed exists strong feelings that should accompany love but it is not these feelings that will carry you through a committed relationship. Love can indeed be romantic, but rather I would posit that love leads us to act in ways that are romantic but is not romance itself. Love can indeed be powerful, but the real power of love comes through commitment and intentionality, not feelings. 

Falling usually involves accidents, loss of control, and fear. Why would we want to pair this with love? Instead let me introduce you to the concept of diving. Honestly, I am a terrible diver but I do know that diving involves intentionality, precision, and confidence. Feelings may come and go like the waves upon the ocean. And if love is that ocean, then I would much rather dive than fall. 

Which is More Important: Goals or Systems?

Consider This

Picture this scenario. There are three men stranded in the ocean each on his own row boat. The first man realizes that he has to make it to land or his supplies will run out so he starts rowing. Unfortunately, he does not know how to row a boat so he picks up a single oar and ends up spending his days rowing around in large circles. The second man also realizes that he needs to reach land and so he sets out in the direction that he had initially been traveling rowing strong and he makes land in 30 days, 5 days after all of his food ran out. The third man, in the same plight as the other two, through careful consideration knows that he came to this spot from the east only two days ago and so he sets off towards the rising sun and makes it to land in 5 days. (For those considerate few, this man sent a rescue party back for the first and all of them survived.)

How does this relate to systems and goals? Well think about it such that rowing is a system to accomplish the fairly obvious goal of getting to land.

All three men had the same goal and used the same system. What happened then that they all had different results? Well the first man is an example of focusing on his system but failing to realize his system was flawed in that it was not getting him any closer to his goal. The second man had a good system but failed to clearly define his goal which would have contributed to the success of the system. The third man had a clear goal and created a system that achieved that goal as efficiently as possible.

A Few Definitions

What’s all this about? I read an article earlier called “Forget About Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead.” and actually rather enjoyed it. On the flip side, though, I felt like something was missing from the post. Even though the article gives examples of systems and goals, the author never went into an exact definition of such. The American Dictionary of the English Language defines a goal as “the end to which a design tends, or which a person aims to reach or accomplish” while a system is “a whole plan or scheme consisting of many parts connected in such a manner as to create a chain of mutual dependencies.”

Though these might be a bit wordy, I feel like everyone has a general feeling of what these ideas are. Goals are those things that we set down to accomplish and systems are the methods that we use to reach those goals. However, if you break systems down, what are they if not a set of cohesive, successive goals? If you think about it, systems are merely sets of micro-goals that lead up to some type of macro-goal. Macro-goals given purpose and direction to micro-goals. While micro-goals give traction and form to macro-goals.

The author states towards the end of his article that “goals [macro-goals] are good for planning your progress and systems [micro-goals] are good for actually making progress.” This sounds really good, but ultimately focusing on your systems is like building a house without laying a foundation. It may look good, but when it comes down to it the house is doomed to falter.

Why Both Matter

Your goals in life matter and how you accomplish those goals matters. However, what matters far and away more is what your goals actually are.

The author gives examples of goals as winning a championship, writing a book, running a marathon, or building a million-dollar company. These are all great goals, but as the author points out there are flaws in these goals and that is that they are not ultimately satisfying.

If you wrap your whole self into these goals it may be electrifying to achieve them, but they will, in the end, leave you dry and wanting. You can try to avoid the problem by focusing on your systems, but in reality you will actually end up in the same position. You see, the problem is not that these goals are not big. The problem is that they are not big enough.

Many of us go through life focusing on the big outcomes, but usually we neglect the things that matter most in life. What if instead of focusing on the championship, book, marathon, or business, we focused on using the time, talent, and treasures we have been given to make an impact on those around us through our leadership, words, efforts, and skills?

How you do something definitely matters and I strive to do everything I do with excellence. But it is the reason behind and the object of that striving that matters so much more than how I actually do it. The important distinction is that I am not pursuing excellence. I am, however imperfectly, pursuing Him who is excellent.

“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” – Paul (Philippians 3:14)

An Attempt at Elevating Social Media

Christian, what is your purpose in Social Media? What does your relationship with social media look like? Is there a right way to approach this cultural phenomenon? If there is a right way, that must mean there is a wrong way too, right?

I bet that right now you can even think of several people off the top of your head and point to them and say, “That’s the wrong way to use social media.” Everybody is different and everyone approaches social media with different goals. Social media is an extension of what would happen if you placed 100 people into a 1,000 square foot space and simply left them to talk. Everyone’s cramped and milling around seeking out like-minded people while steering clear of or purposefully antagonizing those they do not quite see eye to eye with. Every once in a while someone gets up and stands on a stage to shout out an opinion, idea, or story and all of a sudden the whole room is talking about it.

Simply put, though, social media is a medium, a platform, through which relationships are strung. The best of all relationships are defined by a unifying purpose and then work themselves out by spending time working towards that purpose.

So I started wondering to myself. Why do I use social media? Bear with me as I attempt to explore this question.

  1. Why do we use social media?
The very first question we have to ask ourselves in order to examine this is, “Why do we use social media?” Obviously this question can lend itself to a myriad of answers many of which are valid, some of which may be more useful than others. However, I feel like it really comes down to these three types of people: Consumers, Seekers, and Engagers.

Consumers (a boat I will admit I fall in often) mainly use social media so that they can consume content. All they want to do is to get on, see what is happening in their social circles or around the world and then leave. Seekers are those people who mainly get on in order to find a community. They want a place to belong and feel noticed, and social media offers to them a place where that can happen. Then you have Engagers. These are the people who, let’s be honest, probably stir the pot the most but do so by getting people involved directly or indirectly.

Now I want to say that there is a dark and light side to each of these categories, but that might be too much for this time. Suffice it to say, none of these categories are necessarily bad or good, but it is important to understand why you are using social media so that you can use your strengths and avoid your weaknesses.

Ultimately, though, no matter if you fall into one of the above categories or some other category or a mixture of categories, the goal should be to always give God the glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).

  1. How do we engage with others on social media?
That seems like a lofty goal for something that seems so common place as social media, right? Well that’s what brings us to this next big question: How do we use social media?

In order to glorify God in even the little things in life (i.e. eating, sleeping, relaxing, etc.) what matters is how we are doing it. We have to ask ourselves, “Is how we are treating our bodies honoring to God? Is what I listen to giving Him glory? Is how I consume content, seek out community, or invest in people’s lives Christ-like?”

And that is the ultimate question for how we use social media. Is how we conduct ourselves on this platform bringing us closer to a Christ-bearing image?

That can be a convicting question. We have to expel, though, the errant notions of what we think that means. I feel like our first instinct is to think of Jesus as being really timid or gentle and though we have been called to a quiet life (1 Thessalonians 4:11) Jesus was honestly quite a firebrand sometimes (remember Matthew 21:12-13?).

All this to say, that we want to use social media in a way that is God-glorifying and we can do that by drawing close to Christ and attempting to become more like Him in every way.

  1. What should we do on social media?
But for me, I would want to take it a step further. We have worked on why to use social media and how to use it, but when it comes down to it what should we actually do on social media?

If you are anything like me, there are a lot of things that you can do. I scroll through my feed and there are so many things that I could respond to in joy or frustration, with opinion or affirmation.

But before we get too far, we want to go back to the Word. How can the Word guide us in this? Yes, social media wasn’t quite around back then but the desires that social media meets are not new and human beings have been finding ways to commune, share ideas, and interact with each other for millennia.

As evidenced in those times, the most common places that I could think of that this type of platform occurred was at the city gates, the city squares, or the synagogues. With these three scenarios my mind drifts mostly to Old Testament prophets, Paul on his missionary journeys, and Christ himself.

Though it is most definitely not cut and dry, each of these I feel represent three distinct methods of what to do on social media. The first is that we can confront our culture with the truth. God sent prophet after prophet to His people the Israelites in order to turn them away from their sin and back to Him. And in one way, this is how we can view and conduct ourselves.

The second way, is that as Paul reasoned with the people around him we can do the same and engage people where they are and attempt to convince them of the truth.

But the third way, and what has been a critical point for me, we can stand where the people are gathered and simply hold out the Gospel. Christ would stand before congregations and teach them from the scripture, but besides giving them head knowledge like the Pharisees, he pointed them to a hope that others had missed: himself.

We can confront the culture and try to convince them of the truth every day of the week, but if we are not holding out the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Him crucified, buried, and risen) then we are missing the entire point of our faith.

The truth is that we are all faulty human beings. The Lord knows that I have wrong ideas and beliefs and therefore whatever reasoning I hold out to others for why I believe what I believe has the capacity to be flawed. However, when you hold out Christ, who is perfect and ever working through the Holy Spirit, then the kingdom of heaven will come. And it will be a glorious coming.

Social media allows us to reach audiences our forefathers never dreamed of. We can use this platform to make the name of our King great. So my final question to myself is, “How am I using my voice?”