Taming the Beast
Probably like some of you, I have a love/hate relationship with my computer. Actually, it’s not my computer I have issues with but the internet, or more specifically, my use of the internet. Without question, having an online connection with the world makes life easier in many ways. I can even say that it equips me to do a better job with the responsibilities the Lord has given me. Daily I go online to research topics I’m going to teach, to figure out how to plant something I’ve never grown before, to check out the grocery store ads, to balance our checkbook, or to request books to be sent to the bookmobile. The internet helps me stay in quick contact with grown children, other family members, and distant friends. And how thankful I am that my older children are able to take live online classes from the excellent and godly teachers at The Potter’s School! My computer, with its rip-roaring rural DSL speeds, is a grand tool, and one I would be loathe to give up.
But my computer is not exactly a tool like my dishwasher, vacuum cleaner, or other gear that make household tasks easier. None of them is seductive in the way my computer is. I have never started to mix up the weekly batch of bread in my Bosch and then thought, “Oh, while I’m here I’ll just whip up some fruit smoothies. And at the same time, I might as well stir up a recipe of French bread, and how about a batch of whole-wheat baked doughnuts?” Now, my family might be happy if I did those things, but I tend to not get distracted from those kinds of jobs but instead do only what I’d originally planned. Not so with the computer. Maybe you are more disciplined than I, but I far too often go online to check email or look up one little thing, then get off course and spend 15 minutes or (sometimes much) more trekking from one place to another.
And the internet leads me in to sin in more ways than wasting time. Have you noticed how much of social networking is gossip or voyeurism? I’m convinced that the internet provides just one more way for women to be idle, and “go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention” (I Tim. 5:13).
Finally, I’ve started to notice how things I read online sometimes cause me to get worked up about issues and want to prove that the way I think is the right way. A few nights ago, after reading something on an online forum, I was troubled and formulating a response that would explain why my take on a certain topic was the correct one. Then I picked up my evening bible reading and the Lord rebuked me with this:
I Peter 3: 8, 9 To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.
For a number of reasons, Tim and I have been reevaluating our internet usage. I wish we could simplistically arrive at an answer such as, “We’ll only use the internet for such and such, but never for thus and so.” I wish I could say something like, “Blogs are fine, but Facebook is always a black hole.” And I’m pretty sure that whatever decisions we arrive at won’t be the same that would be best for someone in a different situation. Nonetheless, here are the basic questions I’m using to help me process my online use:
- Does what I am reading/doing online help me love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength?
- Does it equip me to be a better wife and/or mom to my husband and children?
- Does it help me love my neighbor as myself? (Or am I merely loving myself?)
- Is my internet use more in line with being a Titus 2 older woman or a I Timothy 5:13 busybody?
Happily, much online use can pass these tests. When I spend five minutes to find a recipe for a cherry breakfast kuchen, that is time well spent to help me love my family. However, taking 45 minutes digging out the ultimate recipe might be time better spent talking to my thirteen year old about an issue she’s working through or even in cleaning the kitchen. Facebook, on the other hand, for me is more questionable, and it may end up being kicked off my computer. Whatever parameters I end up with after more consideration, I know that I want to keep my computer and its online capabilities as simply a tool and not a seductress.