“Have you seen The Shack?” I asked her during her week long stay at our house.
Her eyes widened slightly as the right words attempted formation. Her response was brief, “No, have you?”
As the conversation progressed she revealed to me the reason she decided not to see The Shack was based on my social media sharing of an article urging believers not to see the movie. This opened the door for a conversation God used to warn me of the responsibility of my influence.
I explained to my friend that I’d read the book as a new believer and felt incredibly touched by God through that book. In fact, it painted a picture of an intimate God in the face of unspeakable tragedy. However, as the movie prepared to launch I no longer found myself an infant christian. I saw things differently. I read several articles on the book and movie discussing theology I was unaware of as a new believer. And my take away was simply this – I want to save believers from believing lies and poor theology.
I was wrong. I was wrong in so many ways. Today I want to tell you, my readers, that I’m sorry for times my words have influenced you in a wrong way.
My friend shared with me that evening that not only did she decide not to see that movie but she declined seeing it with a friend. And who knows what happened from there. Maybe she needed to be with that friend at that movie.
I love friends who challenge me. Friends who don’t simply nod in agreement with me for fear of offense. Friends who can have mature discussions where we propel each other to understand our beliefs and opinions. I love a good debate, one that uses logic and reason.
I have several friends in my life who do this. One set of friends, husband and wife, have been those types of friends. The ones to sit for an hour discussing something where I leave and find myself pondering their words. This movie was one of those topics. They understood where I was coming from, but they asked me one simple question that sparked my thoughts in a different direction.
My friends asked me, “When you read that book, did God touch you with it?”
Yes, that book did touch me deeply. So much that I still remember it these many years later, and I have a horrible memory. I rarely remember books years later. I remember. They asked me what I remember about it. I remembered the intimacy of Jesus. I remembered scenes of His love that transcend our human abilities to fathom. I remember that when I closed the last page of that book I thought, “Wow, His love is so deep, so amazing, and can heal the deepest wounds formed in the darkest places.”
That conversation sparked several more, which continued to churn in my head. They changed my mind. I changed my mind. I realized I was likely very wrong in my opinion. But then life moved on. I hadn’t seen the movie until my mentor and friend paid a visit to Nebraska.
For me personally, I have to be very careful with my guards. I protect tightly my mind and what I allow in, my eyes in what I see, my ears in what I hear. And this can lead me to believe everyone needs as tight of protection as I need for myself.
That night the two of us tucked ourselves away in my basement and watched the movie which I initially warned believers not to watch. And the movie touched me just like the book.
The book and the movie hold one giant theme. God loves us. God is love. And forgiveness. The beauty of forgiveness.
At the conclusion of that movie, I felt deep conviction. There were people who decided not to see that movie based on my opinion. People who needed to see on a big screen the beautiful love of Christ. But my “mature” faith got in the way. I have forgotten what it’s like to not know God. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to hurt so deeply you truly wonder if there is a God. I’ve forgotten that someone needs to simply see God loves them apart from doctrine and theology. I’ve forgotten.
It’s not only The Shack though. I’ve offered my opinions many times in the pursuit of justice or righteousness. I’ve offered my opinions in the pursuit of truth. Calling out false prophets in an effort to protect young believers from falling away to the ways of this world.
I’ve been wrong to do that. Even as some of you read this you will disagree. And in this age of thin skin, we are finding ourselves full of pride. We believe that our opinions are right and everyone else is an idiot. We are divided over opinions.
You see, when I’ve shared articles where others have exposed false prophets, I’m also potentially a part of despair in that person’s life. Not always, but sometimes, possibly.
I scrolled through my feed Sunday night and closed it because I couldn’t handle one more opinion. Opinion after opinion. Heated. Arguments. This country is so divided over every single issue. It’s so sad.
Offering my opinion on social media isn’t going to soften a hard heart. Offering my opinion on social media isn’t going to change a mind set that it is right. Instead what is happening in my soul is a slow death by social media posts. A disillusionment of humanity. A separation of friends I simply find I can’t agree with on anything online.
I’m influenced all day long by what I read, who I read. And this, my friends is where God has convicted me.
I influence more people than I realize. Every time I open my mouth or send my fingers on a keyboard trip, I influence someone. That, my friends, is a high calling.
Yes, I want to be a protector of truth. Yes, I want to stand for righteousness and holiness. Yes, I want to waver not. But in this social media age the line is erasing in our ability to stand on a side to do this well.
God has convicted me in personal ways that might not apply to your family. Often I will share these insights because you might find yourself caught in the place I was as I decided which side to stand on. My caution is to be careful. To not follow man. Or me. To not make your decisions based on what others do. Who to read, what to watch, what to celebrate, how to live.
If you ask God, He will direct you. My job isn’t to influence the world to follow the path God has asked me to walk. My goal instead should be to influence the world for Christ. To look to Him for all things. To get our eyes off of this world. To learn to discern His voice.
I’ve realized that in my passion and zeal for Him, I have at times used it in ways that did more harm than good. I’m sorry.
The Shack is what God first used to get my attention. But then the eclipse. God showed me several times not to view the eclipse. Rather than take his warning as personal to my family, I shared it to caution others. Fear, not faith, fueled me. It was that I feared others wouldn’t heed a warning I’d heard from God. After the eclipse I wondered if someone God wanted to wow with His glory decided not to watch the eclipse that needed to experience His Presence in a once in a lifetime way. Possibly.
I can play that game dangerously. Always the what-if. I can play it to the other side. What if my warning saved someone’s eyes? But God keeps stopping me here.
He’s teaching me that He is so intimate that He speaks directly to me for me. Not always for me to take to the world. I am finding I still hold doubts and unbelief that He is this God I proclaim Him to be to the world.
Ya’ll, this is a rambling post. I write in the cracks of time now between homeschooling my kids, ministry, and loving my family well. But I hope you can see what I’m trying to convey. It’s simply this. I’m sorry for times I used my influence poorly, for times I’ve not prayed and asked God before my fingers took a walk on the keyboard. And this- be careful what and who influences you. In all things, take it to the Word. Seek God not man. Seek God’s heart and thoughts, not man’s. If your heart feels torn over issues, go to God not Facebook. He will settle your soul, and He is so personal that when He speaks you will struggle in accepting that the God of the universe loves you so intimately that He would speak directly to you through His Word. But He does.
And remember this, people are always watching you. They are watching how you love and who you love, how you treat people, how you speak to people. We all hold the high calling of influence. Do all things to the glory of God. That includes our influence. We don’t need a stage and microphone anymore to influence the masses. We all do it everyday.
I love you, my friends. I thank you for your grace as I expose myself time and time again and allow God to refine me in private and public. You are a treasure to me.