December 10, 2014

Mary Treasured Up All These Things and Posted Them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

I know. The title is ridiculous.

But honestly. I think it is time to admit that our culture has a problem.

Honestly. I think there is a reason Jesus was not born in 2014, or anytime in the last ten years.

Because can you even imagine? (Okay, I did imagine just a little bit. Along with my wisecrack sisters who contributed to this post as my Hashtag Brainstorming Committee. #boom #nailedit)

Can you even imagine: Mary, distracted from the angel’s message because her phone was “blowing up?” The Shepherds, posting photos of the Host of Angels all over Instagram? The Three Wise Men, using Google Maps to get to Bethlehem instead of a bright star?

It’s a ridiculous thought.

But something tells me that the original holiday was better off without all of our current technology and cultural distractions. Something tells me that the original holiday benefited from all of its main characters being present:

Not distracted by their phones, or social media, or followers, or “likes.” Not busy trying to capture and post pictures of the rice they ate earlier that day. Not preoccupied texting everyone who wasn’t at the stable with them.

So during this month of holidays I decided to give us all permission - at our various parties and celebrations and family gatherings – to put down our phones and cameras and to simply be present.

Because in this day and age, we are obsessed with capturing moments, instead of treasuring them. We are fixated on documenting memories, rather than pondering them in our hearts. We are obsessed with social media rather than being social with the people right in front of us.

It’s as if we think that if a single memory in our lives or in the lives of our children goes undocumented, then it must have never happened. (Like one of Uncle Bill’s crazy fishing stories.) Or that if we/our children become famous someday – the people from “60 Minutes” are going to be really disappointed when they don’t have pictures of the food we ate last week Tuesday for their biographical slideshow.

But let’s be real – The folders upon folders of thousands upon thousands of pictures on our cameras, phones, computers, and back-up hard drives will be plenty to fill our scrapbooks and create five different slideshows for “60 Minutes.”

I get it. Social media can be super duper fun and entertaining. And the creativity and ingenuity of technology is an absolutely wonderful thing in many ways.

And I know. It’s tempting to think: “Oh, I’ll just quick take a picture and post it.”

But we all know there is no such thing as just “quickly taking a picture and posting it.”

It’s writing a witty comment to go with the photo. It’s checking back to see how many “likes” it has and reading people’s comments. It’s returning the favor of the “likes” and comments by “liking” and commenting on the pictures and statuses they posted.

It’s creating a temptation to stare at our phones the entire party. Or staring at the party through a screen or lens the entire evening.

But let’s stop this, if only for a short time.

Let’s be present.

Here are four easy steps to do so:

1. Capture your basic pictures to fill your kid’s Christmas scrapbook page, and/or to post as a “latergram.” (We all know this is actually no more than 17 photos.)
2. Then, intentionally shut off or put down your phone/camera.
3. Leave it off or out of reach for a solid hour.
4. During that solid hour, soak up everything:

The familiar people, the charming conversation, the awkward hugs from Great Aunt Gertie, the delicious smells of everything chocolate, the feel of holding Grandma’s wrinkly hands, the sounds of gifts unwrapping and children giggling.

Delight in your big babies as all of the pre-Christmas anticipation builds to its peak right before they open that first gift. Enjoy your little babies by sniffing their hair, hugging them close, and touching their angel-soft skin.

Because those are things that can’t be “captured” on film. Those are things that can be treasured up and pondered as we soak in the holidays, rather than trying to only capture and “share” them.

Like Mary, let’s “treasure up all these things, and ponder them” in our hearts.

Let’s take precious time to think about what it means that God became a man in order to save us. In order to save the world. About what it means that the birth of a helpless baby boy was the start of our salvation. About what it means that the people in the room with us are also God’s children, in need of His love and mercy and grace and peace.

And let’s hold each other accountable.

Let’s not worry about capturing every moment with our cameras. Let’s stop texting and Snapchatting people who aren’t in the same room or at the same party with us. (Let’s stop texting and Snapchatting people who are in the same room or at the same party with us too!)

(Okay, minus those all-important phone calls and Skype dates with our dear loved ones who can’t be with us for some reason. Because that was us through many family gatherings while living in Guatemala for three years.)

Let’s kindly remind each other that our selfies all look exactly the same, minus the extra red and green tinsel in the background and the sickly winter tan we have all gotten over the past few months.

Let’s be present.

Because as we watch life through lenses and screens, there is a part of us that is absent. There is a part of our mind caught up in something else, missing what is right in front of us.

And just one disclaimer: I guarantee during the technology-free hour at each of your parties that when you put down your phone or camera, the absolutely cutest, America’s Funniest Home Videos-worthy thing will happen and you will be mortified that you didn’t catch it on film. And I apologize for that. Because that's the worst.

But just remember this:

A picture might be worth a thousand words, but it will never be able to capture what all of our senses, our emotions, and our memories can hold in the present – even though they may fade over time.

Our presence is the best present we can give to our children, our family, and our friends this Christmas.

Let’s be present.

Grace and Peace,