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.