Updated: Feb 22, 2020
I have never seen so many crazy and ridiculous antics as I have on social media. You know, the kind of dumb things people do that make you laugh, but at times make you wonder, why did I watch that until the end? How did I just spend half an hour watching a dog play jinga or 100 insane ways to prank your flatmate (does a husband count?)
The problem is that while social media has been a great way for me to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, it has also been at times the biggest rabbit hole I have fallen into.
What I am really doing is scrolling until someone or something captures my attention. I'm asking, "entertain me, amaze me, excite me," and there is no end of competition promising to do just that.
Any marketing expert knows this. They know we are saturated with content and fatigued with choices. In our pursuit of that new dopamine hit we move on if we don't get a self-esteem boost within a few seconds, so they are always looking for a new way to 'STOP THE SCROLL'. In other words, as you are scrolling through endless images, something makes you stop in your tracks (and hopefully hit like, follow or buy now.)
Sometimes our lives are like this. We are receiving streams of information from multiple sources all the time. Our mental and emotional thread is loaded with never-ending responsibilities, expectations, pressures, and thoughts (and that's before we even check Facebook). Most often we are busy scrolling through each of them looking for significance and hope. We are searching for more.
Or simply love.
I believe God is continuously trying to flood our feed with messages. Yet with all the voices vying for our attention, we need to learn to 'stop the scroll' whenever He hints or hollers and pay attention to what He has to say.
Entertain me, amaze me, excite me
Jesus had a knack for grabbing peoples attention. He loved turning religion inside out and turning everyday moments into interesting memes. The people were entertained, amazed and excited by what he had to say (unless you were a religious fanatic - they were just enraged). For example, here's what He did on a perfectly ordinary Jewish day of rest. (see Luke 4:16-22)
Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor."
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.
Scrolls were the books of the ancient world. They were long strips of papyrus which could be spread horizontally to read the words which were laid out in columns. To find a particular 'page' (column) you would roll one end up while unrolling the other end until you came to the passage you wanted to read.
And that is exactly what Jesus did - He stopped the scroll.
When Jesus stopped the scroll, the Word of God took on a new significance and clarity in that moment. He read it, declared it and proceeded to live it.
The words Jesus read out were a unique statement about Himself. It was a reminder that the Spirit of the Lord was upon Him and a declaration of the call of God on His life.
When you stop the scroll to look at what God has to share, you discover a personal revelation of what God says about you and what He wants to do through you.
So how can we stop the scroll for ourselves?
Take control of the scroll
"The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him."
What I have found with social media (or life in general), is that I am presented with hundreds of voices that I have not necessarily chosen. Indiscriminate streaming of content into our lives can deaden our sensitivity to the one Voice we want to be tuning in to. Sometimes we can miss what God has to say to us because we are on auto-mode, letting ourselves be drawn in rather than actively seeking truth.
Taking control of the scroll means choosing the voices we listen to. It also means taking responsibility for what we engage with. Instead of succumbing to click-bait (sensational headlines) which leads to false promises, we are discerning about the source and it's trustworthiness.
Who is handing you scrolls? Do they demonstrate integrity, honesty, humility? Are they spiritually mature or inconsistent with their theology and practice? Do they respect other leaders or only like the sound of their own voice?
What type of content does it contain? Does it glorify God and honour people? Does it contradict what God says about Himself or affirm and agree with Scripture? Does it build up or tear down? Does it promote peace or outrage?
The authority we give to others to speak into our lives is important. When God hands you something (e.g scripture), then read it, declare it and live it, but if it's not;
...sometimes we need to hand it back and say, "No thanks, there's no truth in that."
After all, someone who has control of the scroll knows how to pass over the trolls!
Scroll until the Spirit stops you
"Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written."
Any scroll could have been handed to Jesus, and any scripture would have been useful, but for some reason Jesus was specific in what He chose to read. On this day, with these nameless people who were neither royal or powerful, the Holy Spirit wanted to make a statement about the King of kings.
One of the most useful things I think I have ever done in learning to hear God speak to me has been to sit with an open bible (and coffee!). I am not searching for anything particular, or striving to conjure up the answer to a deep theological mystery, but I am simply reading and waiting for something to stop my scroll - anything that captures my attention and sniffs of possible significance.
It might be a single word or phrase that I've heard numerous times throughout the week
It might be an emotion that is triggered when I empathise with a character
It might be a description that is is a perfect metaphor for something I'm going through
It might be the Holy Spirit stirring an excitement or urgency on the theme of the text
When this happens, don't scroll on. If you hear a hint or holler, stop, focus on Him and follow that thread. Engage with Him by asking more questions;
How is that word relevant to me?
Why am I feeling that way?
What does that metaphor reveal?
What do others Scriptures on this topic have to say?
What wisdom can I learn from the saints about this?
If God is prompting you to stop the scroll with other flashes of inspiration through images, dreams, or songs, you can ask the same questions.
I have also learned not to confuse what captures my attention with what captures my affection. My own selfish and sinful loves want to be satisfied, so I need to be careful not to simply pay attention to something because I want it! (alas, my credit card)
"All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips"
I am so thankful that God is persistent in getting my attention when I am distracted and preoccupied.
Yet, when I am scrolling through all the items and thoughts and pressures of my day, I have realised I can't just attend to the one that hollers at me the loudest or looks the most attractive.
The truth is, God's word may not always look flashy, but it is always life-giving.
What do think it would look like if He doesn't have to holler to capture our attention, we're already following and waiting for His next thought?
Using Instagram or Facebook as an example (where the scrolling metaphor fits best), when I have chosen to follow someone, I find I am more eager to check out their recent post. When an author I admire is sharing their top ten tips on how not to mess up a blog post, I'm all ears. That's why I follow them. I want to get to know them. I want to learn from them. I'm interested in who they are what what they have to say.
I stop the scroll to read what they have shared, not because they did anything spectacular to grab my attention, but because I know I will appreciate what I read.
In the same way, when we pre-determine that whatever God has to say is going to be life-giving, then we are always prepared to stop the scroll for Him.
In the end I think you will find yourself amazed at what God has to say to you!
What kind of thoughts or ideas do you find scrolling through your mind? Where do you think these come from?
Consider the words of Jesus:“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor." What does this suggest about the kind of things God wants to say to you?
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