You write emails and messages, and facebook statuses all year long. You have prayed over long distance friends, and shared your heart with them even though you have never seen into their eyes before. You have met these friends online, and now you love them and truly care for them. How can this be?
We met many of our online friends through an online school (the best, I dare to say) almost five years ago. And every year we go to the famous End of the Year Gathering where we all meet for a week to share laughs, words, hugs, tears. To look into our eyes, and gaze into the beauty of godly fellowship.
Some of my closest friends are there, and some others, like Elizabeth, one of my best friends, I have met through the blogging world. How could this happen? Haven’t we been told that online friends are not real? That they do not belong to the real world?
We are now in a time where we can’t ignore the online world. It is part of us and we are part of it. My dearest sister and best friend lives in Canada while I live in Mexico, and yet we are in contact almost daily through all the new technologies that allow us to share those little things that make up our days.
Few of the things I have learned along with my children in this new world, new era, where online relationships do happen are these:
1. Know that there is a REAL person behind the screen. When I teach online, when I blog, when I send a facebook message, when I write or read an email; I know there is someone breathing on the other side. A person, a real one, with virtues and flaws. With good days and bad days. With a beautiful home that sometimes gets messy as mine. We are real people, we are not “a thing” behind a screen.
2. Be YOU at all times. Be sincere, be real. When my dear friend Elizabeth and I sat on the same table to have lunch, for the first time after almost two years of being “online friends”, I was very happy to find “the Elizabeth” I knew I would find. We knew each other; we were not any different than the person that we show online.
I have taught my children not to post ANYTHING that they would not say in person. When they started to learn how to relate in an online world, I would read their statuses and profiles, to make sure that they were being real. This is a very important thing to do at all times. As Christians, we are to be true to our faith on the family table, the mall, the farm, the school, facebook, etc. We cannot be double-minded. We must be always blameless children of God.
3. Make it happen. This is the hardest part, but the most rewarding one: Go beyond the screen! Get the phone (or Skype which is cheaper if you have loved friends who live in the UK or Brussels). Listen to their voices, to their laugh, take the time to make it happen! Set a time, just as if you would go to a Starbucks to meet with your friend. It seems simple but it makes a world of a difference.
Now, try to meet them in person! This is what we must long for, to be with our online friends at a table, sharing the bread, and looking into their eyes.
This past week, as more than 400 people gathered in Lancaster, PA to celebrate the End of the Year Gathering, I kept my eyes open to see that true godly relationships can be built online where the Lord reigns among His people and His statutes are honored. As one of our friend has said, “that week with these people was absolutely worth any pain that the good-byes may have wrought.”
I pray that God will help us live in this era of online relationships, true to our calling, honoring Him in all we do and say, praising Him with every word we write or read.
Much love to you today, my dear friend!
The picture above is of my little girl and her friends. Their lives have been brought together because of online friendships. This is the fourth year in a row that they get together to share laughs and songs! My daughter cried when she said good-bye to them.
>My best friend for 20 years was my "phone" friend when our little ones were "little." She and I talked almost every morning while our boys watched Barney the dinosaur as they ate their cereal. We knew when we'd been up all night w/ a sick child, what the babies' milestones were almost as they happened, and what we were fixing for supper….and so many other things. Our relationship has stood the test of time, through both husbands going to seminary later in life, uprooting families to go, and some tough life stuff as well. I am so thankful God placed her in my life when I was a lonely, new mother. Now, I'm watching the online world be the "phone" for young women. Thank you for your timely comments which encourage me as I see a new generation forming friendships which I pray will be God-honoring and covenant building as well.
>Great post, Becky! I've benefited from getting to "know" more of the body of Christ through the internet. I do agree with you about keeping it real. Saints from my local church (including my pastor) read my blog, so I can't create a fake persona. :)As far as ways to make it happen, I haven't thought about Skype. I might have to consider that….
>Becky,Loved your post! I have shied away from on-line relationships until recently and am wondering now — what was I thinking? I am so blessed by my new found relationships online (and those I have met in person via on-line). The relationships have brought so my joy for my family.Much love you to and yours,Christina
>Becky,You wrote the post that needed to be written! People matter.I'm still benefitting from our time together in DC, it's hard to put into words, but I know you know. It's the power of looking into a face, being "in communion" –it's where we get to see the image and glory of God in another!Abrazos,-E
>This is a wonderful post Becky! I agree with it 100%. There have been so many critical arguments written about 'virtual' friendships but I argue that. Did not the Apostle Paul send 'virtual' communication to all of his beloved friends in various churches through his epistles? Online friendships have the disadvantage of not being able to enjoy that warm hug and cup of coffee together – or laughter and facial expressions. And sometimes it is easy to have misunderstandings through lack of having a physical presence. But the advantages are that we can articulate our thoughts to each other maybe even better through writing them out first. And like you experienced meeting Elizabeth, she was the same 'in person'. Well of course! 🙂 Much love to you sister!
>What an encouraging post, Becky! I have often struggled with the "online" friendship v. "real life" friendship dilemma. It's too much to write about here, but I would love to email you and get your perspective.
>Jessalyn, you are pointing to something that I do believe it is absolutely important, our day to day relationships should never be neglected. And our local church should always be honored and loved. I am looking forward to get to know you better! :)Diana, you are one of those of "online friends" that have become "real-life friends". I love you dearly and can't wait 'till we share the bread together.Love you, sister!
>"You have met these friends online, and now you love them and truly care for them…" So so true, dearest Becky! As for a real person – does your house REALLY get messy like mine?? 😉 And as for making it happen, trying to meet in person….this is a desire that seems to grow in me with each passing day…passport applications have now been sent off since seeing the photos of you and Elizabeth meeting up, so one step closer, thanks for inspiring me 🙂
>Great post! I have always shied away from online relationships because they seem to be so superficial at times, but you give me great hope that they can indeed be real, honest, and deep. Our world really is changing and the online community cannot be ignored. I am finding that as I open myself up to making real relationships online I am being very blessed. The challenge, however, is to not get sucked into the online world and ignore the first ministries the Lord has given us in the "real" world. Thank you for these tips!Love Jessalyn @DesiringVirtue.com