I’m Listening

“Look carefully and listen slowly and pay attention.” Twice the LORD gave Ezekiel these instructions when showing him the plans for rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem.

The Lord has not called me–at least not as far as I can discern–to start measuring the lengths of walls. But I believe he has called me–has called all of us–to be people who rebuild, restore, and repair what is broken in the world around us. And it’s that very call that motivates me to lean in close–to “look carefully, listen closely and give attention”–so that I do not miss his directions for me or misconstrue what he has to say.

I believe he has called me–has called all of us–to be people who rebuild, restore, and repair what is broken in the world around us.

In particular, I’m leaning in to listen to what he would say to me about my engagement with social media.

For nearly a decade I have wrestled with the concept of platform-building. I’ve had editor-friends offer me theological rationales for it. I have a sense of the market trends that would seem to make it necessary. I have been told that I don’t have to be a standout on multiple platforms–simply having a presence on Twitter would do.

But the theological rationales have left me wanting. The market trends make me ask, “What’s the third way? What’s the other option we haven’t considered yet?” And most of what I see on Twitter causes desolation as opposed to consolation or inspiration. Some of that could be due to my own self-righteousness. But some of that is due to a lack of charity and some to too many people playing the role of prophet.

I have many friends who engage social media well, many who have done the work of posting true and beautiful content week after week after week. Some have beautiful paradigms for seeing their social networks as a place to offer hospitality. Some seek to offer spiritual counsel. Others, spiritual care.

But my conscience is not clear about my engagement, despite all of these frameworks for wise practice.

This morning, I came across a quote in a completely unrelated Christianity Today article that captures my inner turmoil about social media: “‘To what degree am I being influenced by what Jesus wants me to do or to what degree am I internalizing or reflecting what the broader society says I should prioritize?'”

When it comes to posting on social media to whom am I listening? Am I listening to the Christian publishing industry? Or am I listening to the voice of God?

Am I listening to the voice of God?

Perhaps God will ultimately tell me that the social media presence is the way. But until I have more clarity on that, I am hesitant to walk in it. Since Christmas, I’ve posted very little on social media. My Buffer queue has been empty for weeks. I have alotted no time for developing a content strategy. And while I am filling the pages of a notebook with thoughts that I could post, I question whether or not I should.

Resources for pursuing inner peace

In December, I wrote an article for Made to Flourish about how pursuing peace on earth must begin with pursuing peace within our own souls. But I didn’t offer many concrete ways to start the journey. Yes, I suggested that this inner work should be done in community. Yes, taking a cue from Bonhoeffer, I suggested that confession could be a good first step. Some of us may need to find a counselor or spiritual director to help with the work.

But here are a few resources that might help you do this hard work (again, in community with others). The first three books, while they may mention faith or spirituality, do not integrate the inner work they prescribe within any particular faith tradition. The latter three books are distinctly Christian.

  1. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. We use this as a textbook in a class that I teach, and my students love how it helps them think through how they respond to situations and engage with others. Every time I revisit it, I take away something new or am reminded of something to continue to work on. I think it’s a great entry point for someone that hasn’t done a considerable amount of self-reflection. Get the workbook, too, because it will help you process the concepts as they pertain to your values, your work, and your relationships.
  2. Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves. This book explains what emotional intelligence (EQ) is and helps you reflect on your ability to 1) Understand your own emotions, 2) Manage your own emotions, 3) Read others’ emotions, and 4) Respond to others’ emotions. The book helps you identify areas of growth and then gives you exercises to help you develop in those areas.
  3. The Gifts of Imperfection by BrenĂ© Brown. Brown comes at inner work from a social science perspective. She’s researched shame for years, and her work helps us attend to the messages of shame that resound in our heart and mind in order to uncover and live out of our authentic selves.
  4. The Gift of Being Yourself by David Benner. I read this book in seminary and then again during a bit of a vocational crisis in 2010. Benner offers a theological approach to this inner work.
  5. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Pete Scazzero. Pete examines emotional health within the framework of Christian discipleship. And he reflects on his own growth in this area. You can purchase several accompanying resources such as workbooks and curriculum. You can also watch Pete present the content on YouTube.
  6. Wholeheartedness by Chuck DeGroat. I recently read this, and I loved how DeGroat drew from psychology, neuroscience, BrenĂ© Brown’s research, and Christian spirituality to describe our inner dividedeness and how to move toward wholeheartedness. I especially appreciated the final chapters that offered concrete practices–reflection and prayer–to help us do the inner work.