“Do not forsake your friend or a friend of your family, and do not go to your relative’s house when disaster strikes you — better a neighbor nearby than a relative far away.” Proverbs 27:10 (NIV)
I recognized the familiar buzzing sound as my cell phone did a vibrating dance across my kitchen island, signifying another notification coming through on social media.
I stopped what I was doing — folding laundry while visiting with my neighbor, a fellow believer, who’d just stopped by for a chat. Then I grabbed my phone to see what the latest pings and dings were all about. One was a private message on Facebook. A second notified me of a new email. Yet another sound denoted activity on an Instagram image I’d put up earlier that morning.
When I’d finished clicking and tapping my way around all the latest notifications, I looked up. My neighbor, whom I had briefly ignored to tend to my device, announced, “Hey, I think I’ll come back later when you aren’t so busy. Have a great day.” She then headed out my front door and back to her house.
My heart sank. I’d allowed the appeal of my phone’s notifications to eclipse the presence of the flesh-and-blood person standing right in front of me — a soul I interact with in real life, not just through a profile picture on a device.
The abbreviation IRL stands for “in real life,” and it’s used to designate a person you have a relationship with in the real world, not just the world of the internet such as a “friend” on Facebook or a follower on another social media platform.
Compare that to a URL. The acronym URL means “Uniform Resource Locator” and is used to specify addresses on the internet. What often happens in our device-driven culture today is that we let the places a URL may take us — to a blog, social media site or comment thread — supersede the time spent with people we know in our neighborhoods, churches and communities. As a result, our IRL (in real life) relationships stagnate, suffer or even stop developing altogether.
Today’s key verse speaks of the advantage of having friends close at hand: “Do not forsake your friend or a friend of your family, and do not go to your relative’s house when disaster strikes you — better a neighbor nearby than a relative far away ” (Proverbs 27:10). In today’s social media culture, we certainly can cultivate online friendships that are helpful and even deep. But there’s something so reassuring about a person who knows you up close and personal, a nearby soul who interacts with you on a regular basis. I not only want to have that kind of friend; I want to be that kind of friend.
What a benefit and a blessing it is to have believing friends that are near enough to look us in the eye when we’re processing a problem or bring us a meal when needed. Such close-proximity connections grow, deepen and encourage friendships in a way that births what the Bible refers to as fellowship — a heart-to-heart bond with other believers over the shared common love of the gospel of Christ. Our faith grows when we’re face-to-face with friends.
So, perhaps it’s time we put down our phones for a bit. Could we reconnect with a real-life relationship we’ve neglected because we were too fixated on our screens? With our nearby, face-to-face, believing friends, we can share life — offering support, advice and maybe even a pot of coffee.
Father, forgive me for the times I let the pull of technology trump the call to connect with the people You have placed in my actual life. Help me connect heart-to-heart with them as we seek to encourage each other in our walks with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY
2 John 12, “Though I have many things to write to you, I don’t want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to come to you and talk face to face so that our joy may be complete.” (CSB)
Do you long to grow deep friendships that encourage others and refresh your own soul? Check out Karen Ehman’s book, Listen, Love, Repeat: Other-Centered Living in a Self-Centered World. You’ll gain practical tips and ideas for connecting with — and finding — real-life friends.
If I step out in faith, will God follow through? It's a question that may taunt us when facing an uncertain situation. Yet, God has given us examples where people did step out in faith, and God did follow through! Join us as we study the book of Daniel in the First 5 app, and discover how to stand firm in the face of fear. Click here to get your Experience Guide.
Would you like to spend time with a real-life friend sipping coffee while learning how to strengthen the relationships in your life? Head to Karen's Instagram account, where she’s giving away a book and coffee bundle that includes everything for two people to complete her video-based study, Listen, Love, Repeat: Other-Centered Living in a Self-Centered World.
REFLECT AND RESPOND
Evaluation time! On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being never and 10 being always, where would you place yourself on how often you succumb to the tug of technology? What self-imposed guidelines can you follow to stop letting apps and sites take time away from the people in your life with whom you could be connecting instead?
Let us hear from you! Join us in the comments.
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