this online thing [or why i am still here, with you].

We spread a leopard-print blanket across the table for the still-life art project Erica will teach the kids from the local mission later that afternoon. She asks me about the pinched forehead, what is wrong.

Oh, the internet, I say, dropping buzzwords from Impromptu Sex Week and the Superbowl Beyoncé Flare-up and so on. I’m not explaining well, I’m fumbling and frustrated and can’t decide how I feel about anything. My gut-reactions don’t translate to formulated thoughts until much later and sometimes I want the noise, inside and outside, to just stop.

You know, you don’t have to do this, she says, her eyes all honesty and looking to the deep like always.

The afternoon sun flecks through high windows above a wall with hand-me-down paint onto hand-me-down chairs that sit in this room that was handed down to Erica to make a bit of beauty and a bit of difference in a city whose poverty and violence is downright ugly and shocking. The context of her words isn’t lost on me.

I am standing in the middle of as-real-as-it-gets Waco, talking about what to most is only a virtual reality.

And I know what she means, at the heart of it–there is a danger in spending your life and love online completely. And maybe there is a temptation to construct an online reading and writing life as a venue to simply “make a lovely little speech to yourself,” as a beloved professor once quoted.

This I understand, struggle with some days. Do I talk a good talk and trample my neighbor? If I debate and spin poetry and retweet and  and have not love, caritas, agape, the kind of love that acts and habits and moves and shakes: sharing blessedness and wills the Good to my neighbor (both on- and offline), then I am only a gong or a cymbal; I am nothing, I gain nothing.

You don’t have to do this.

This online thing. I know.

—————————————————————–

But I do.

Because first of all, this isn’t virtual reality, a veneer, pontificating. The stuff I read and the stuff I hope to be writing is the stuff that composes your real life and mine, and it matters.

It matters.

Feminism, spiritual practices, abuse, relationships, parenting, growing up, sexual ethics, justice, racism, prayer and all of it. All of it affects and informs the way I live and love in that caritasagape way. It is the perhaps the matter itself of that living and loving.

Because here is another beautiful and difficult thing about this online business:

we come with our bad and good rhetoric as well as our bad and good stories;

with our tempers and with our grace;

with our education and experience and sometimes without it;

with numbered lists and paragraphs and randomly bolded words;

we come with our best theology and our deepest hang-ups;

with our passion and with our reason;

with typos and flare-ups and words we didn’t mean;

with a dash of sacred profanity and the temptation to make the sacred profane;

with our heresy and our holiness;

with our arbitrary semi-colons and run-on sentences like this one.

It’s kindof a mess but isn’t that how life is?

So that means it takes a bit of bravery to navigate these waters at times for one reason or another, and I’m not the only one who thinks about giving it up sometimes. But I guess I’ll just say I’m not altogether afraid to get my heart a little too involved with my patience, my prayers, my compass and the stars to guide me.

Because like I said, these things matter, and with the humility, tenderness, care, and whole-hearted truth-seeking I have witnessed in my blogroll, I think these things can matter and manifest in a holy and faithful way, to lead us to the good work that needs to be done.

On- and offline.

I’ve seen a bit of magic and a lot of Church here, and I want to join the effort to pass the peace with the person sitting in this pixelated pew with me.

—————————————————————–

when it all goes quiet behind my eyes, I see everything that made me flying around in invisible pieces.

–Beasts of the Southern Wild

The rest of the story is that I keep reading you people because there’s a whole mess of URLs  undeniably threaded into this growth-history and future of mine and a big part of why I brush my teeth every morning next to the same God.

[and sometimes, every once in a while, online friends are real friends, too.]

So, cheers, Deeper Story and Prodigal and She Loves and Sarah and Suzannah and Micha and Rachel and Emily M. and Emily W. and Joy  and Alise and Alece and Nish and Dianna and Leigh and Seth and Amber and Hilary  and Margaret and Annie and Amy and Elora  and Addie and Elizabeth and Alyssa and Shaney and Kiefer and of course Preston and the other lovely, ragged, brave, hollering, gentle, hella smart, pastoral, preachy, comforting ones that I haven’t named or known yet.

Thank you and keep going–keep changing my life.

34 thoughts on “this online thing [or why i am still here, with you].

  1. New reader here. “A bit of magic, and a lot of Church.” Yes. Especially for folks who have had a rough time figuring out, “What now? I can’t go back *there* again, but I don’t know where to go next, or what to believe” these voices you mention help work out salvation. Its a digital way to “not give up meeting with one another.” Encouragement.

  2. Yes, yes, yes. I get all of this. This line says it all: “I’ve seen a bit of magic and a lot of Church here, and I want to join the effort to pass the peace with the person sitting in this pixelated pew with me.”

    So glad our paths have crossed, friend. And next time I randomly happen to be in Waco, you’d better not be out of town! 😉

  3. I love this so so so so much, Antonia. I too struggle with this weird perception that because a discussion takes place online, that it somehow is different than the way we deal with things offline, that it somehow is different than “real life.” I have a hard time articulating why it matters to people that don’t write or engage the discussion in comments and tweets and statuses, because people want to treat it as petty and inconsequential. Sometimes I even find myself treating it in that way, saying things a bit more harshly or cavalierly than I would if I were sitting across the table from the person. Sometimes I find myself more likely to sit around and comment or tweet about an issue than actually doing something about it in my community. But no matter how hard it is to navigate this online sphere, it still has a real impact on the whole me, as you have explained. Thanks for writing this beautiful, raw post. We need your voice, too. 🙂

  4. I love this because it perfectly captures things that I have been thinking and feeling the past few weeks. I have to remind myself to keep my online life in perspective. I get so angry and worked up over things I read online and sometimes I have to take a step back and breathe. I want to fight the good fight, but I also want to keep my sanity and realize that the world keeps spinning regardless of what the current hot topic in the Christian blogosphere. There is definite tension in trying to keep balance.

    And there are some days when I legitimately want to quit the Internet because of what I read and then I’ll read beautiful and encouraging words by one of my favorite bloggers or I’ll learn something new and be challenged by a Twitter pal and I also realize that I don’t get fed in this way offline. There is no way I would learn this much or be inspired this much on a daily basis if I didn’t have these online interactions. And that’s the beauty of it all. We get to form friendships with people that we would NEVER come into contact with in real life. Isn’t that crazy??

    Anyways — I’ve written an entire blog post basically. All this to say is thank you for articulating what I’ve been wrestling with. And thank you for being a voice in this online life of mine that I definitely respect and learn from.

    🙂

  5. I’ve never commented before, but you and Preston and Sarah and Rachel and good number of the other wonderful people you’ve named are the URLs in my “growth-history and future.” So keep writing and engaging and I’ll keep reading and maybe pop in a little more often. Peace of Christ.

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  7. Girl…this online thing *intdouced* me to progressive Christianity (thank you, RHE especially) and Christian feminism (thank you, Dianna Anderson, Sarah Moon, and others) and other things that may (emphasis on may) save my faith someday. It’s all very much still being worked out. I am so glad to have been exposed to these voices and these excellent people. Special mentions to Preston, Sarah Bessey, Addie. I know I do need more “offline,” but these perspectives have enriched me so, and I’m grateful.

  8. Antonia, I resonate with so much here. Hearing so many good voices wrestling with truth, doubt, fatih, justice and humility has been a gift to me. And your words here, they are a part of that. Beautifully said, friend.

  9. Thank you for your words. Felt good to hear someone else thinking the same thoughts… I haven’t been at it very long, and this week, I spent much time wondering why on earth I am doing this…does it really matter…is it a cop-out for living more fully my ‘real’ life. I seriously thought about if I really should just walk away now…and I haven’t…but I’m still wrestling. Feeling like it’s been birthing in me for so long, yet wanting so much to just bag it. It sometimes feels just like junior high when you’re a no-one in the mass of no-ones, trying to break in to the circle of ‘popular kids’…all these bloggers that I admire, and feel so connected with…yet so far removed from. This crazy, virtual, yet oh-so-real-world…what a weird beast it is.

    • I hear you, Jessi. I agree it really is a strange place, even thought it can be wonderful. I think some of the questions I have to keep facing in my small corner of the internet are am I telling Truth? and is there grace in this? Maybe the questions will be different for everyone, but those are the ones that keep me rooted, keep me coming back to the keyboard, numbers etc aside. But take heart, you’re not the only one wondering about all this!

  10. In a week where my life is basically on the internet (health issues) and I’m wondering why I have all these people on my facebook/twitter who I have never met in the flesh and probably never will meet, I kinda needed this. So, thanks.

    Also, The Pixellated Pew is a great name for a blog. Just sayin’.

    • funnily enough, I wrote this post after 5 days of bedrest sick as a dog. somehow I came out the other side with a whole range of emotions about the internet, ha. Peace and health to you; thanks for reading.

  11. Awesome, thank you for this. I’ve been practicing blogging regularly and I realize there’s this weird new temptation in the fact that I can take things down and delete them. I’ll write a post I’m excited or worked up about, and then two days later realize it was something I should have sat on or have never said. MUCH LIKE LIFE. What do you think about deleting or editing or changing and all that?

    • yes, yes. I understand this. And I completely understand the desire to take your words back (mostly in real life, but still.) But I think it is important to leave the whole process up there. I think it is a powerful thing to see someone either change their mind or change their way right in front of you, and this gets lost if you just remove all evidence. Follow-up posts can be a great thing, or even having a noted addendum within a single post. I have the great blessing to have known Preston Yancey as a real-life friend who blogged before I read him, and we had this conversation more than once. He has shown me that there is a bravery in laying it all out there–even messy and misunderstood–and a grace in that, too. (case in point.)

      It’s a good and honest question, especially when it’s within our power to revise this online image of ourselves. Thanks, Melissa!

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