The funniest thing happened to me a few weeks ago. I saw a preview of the movie, Coraline, and got all excited about it and started explaining to Stuart that this movie is not computer generated and that everything in it is hand-made (including tiny knitted sweaters and stuff) and that the people who made the movie boxed up some of the items in really cool wood boxes and sent them out to bloggers as a new way to promote the movie. I know all this because I read about it on Amy's blog. As I was trying to explain all this, I referred to Amy as "my friend Amy", which is really funny to me because I don't know Amy and I'm pretty sure she doesn't know me.
Which got me thinking about this whole internet world. The blogging, the on-line communities, the facebook thing. Most of the people I am connected with on-line I have met in person first. In real life. IRL. But there are some that I haven't - friends of friends, mostly. And then there are the few that I don't KNOW, but I know ABOUT. Like an author, or someone who commented on my blog that I now read their blog, or Amy, who is the editor of the on-line knitting magazine, Knitty, and also writes a blog that I enjoy. So while I know ABOUT Amy, I don't really know Amy. Which is kinda weird that I sometimes think of her as "my friend Amy."
So then I started thinking about God, and how lots of people know ABOUT Him, but few people really KNOW Him. It's a scary thing to me that it is entirely possible to go through life thinking you know God, but only really knowing lots of stuff about Him. It's possible to think that you are a Christian, while the truth is that you do lots of Christian things and know lots of Christian people and practice lots of Christian disciplines, but you are not a true follower of Christ. It's a concept that scares me quite a bit and causes me to seriously look at myself and examine my faith. Is it a real faith?
Real. In real life. We use that term because the cyber community lacks a "real-ness" that face-to-face relationships have. The cyber community, while it is wonderful in many ways - don't get me wrong there -but it has a low risk factor. You can chat with someone on-line when you feel like it, and leave the computer off when you don't. There is a low risk factor when you control everything an on-line friend knows about you. You can put up your favorite (edited) photo on your profile. You can write about the good stuff and leave out the bad stuff. You control everything. But in real life, relationships are very risky and intrusive and sooner or later, your friends will learn the good and the bad stuff about you and they will see you on a bad hair day and they will watch you lose your temper and they will find out about your heartaches. It's very risky and it's hard to control, but it's real. And the real-ness of real relationships is what brings us our greatest joy, our deepest comfort, our life. Real relationships bring us real life. On-line friends can't hold your hand while your cornea gets scraped off. On-line friends don't bring you food when you can't make it on your own. On-line friends won't pick up your kid from school because you are stuck at home with the phone installation guy. On-line friends don't live with you for seventeen years and still like watching movies with you. That's real life, and we all know the difference because we made an acronym for it. IRL.
So here's what I keep thinking: is my relationship with God IRL? Or is it just on Sunday? Or just in front of other people? Or maybe just in our head but not in our heart? Maybe we know about God, but we don't actually know Him. IRL.