Sunshine is streaming through every window this morning. The sky is blue and clear on every horizon. It’s still autumn and the grass around my house is green due to the extra rain we’ve been blessed with this year. The sun’s return is exciting after so many days of clouds and I can’t wait to get outside. I put on my slippers and wrap myself in a throw, then open the door leading to my deck, and then stop. Things are not as they appear from my sunny window, a small cracking of the door makes me painfully, aware of how cold it is outside. I was deceived as much by my longing for warm weather, as by the appearance of a warm, sunny day, despite my knowing reality of cold temperatures, in the high desert during this time of year. Disappointed I quickly close the door, grab a cup of coffee, and settle in front of my sunny window with my Bible in hand. It’s cold outside but thanks to Jesus, I have all that I need and though deception may frustrate my desires, it can’t destroy my joy.
As I read and pray, applying those passages to my life, I consider how easily I can be deceived into believing what I want to believe. I think about the times and the deception that pours into my life through another kind of Windows. I’m connected to the world by the screens filled with words, voices, and images, through Windows that open but offer a sense of glass-like protection from the harsh reality containing the view of the outside world that they offer. Without experiencing the climate and conditions of the hard-copy that I experience as virtual reality, I can’t know the full truth of what I view, read, or hear. I’m very likely, to fill in the blanks with my imagination, fueled by my desire to experience what I am longing for. It is my unmet needs and wants that set me up for deception.
The internet is a virtual world of opinion, fantasy, and longing. It is also, a place that promises wealth and power to those willing to use the internet to manipulate others. We all present ourselves somewhat, differently online than what we are in reality, we can’t help it. It is natural to show our best selves publically but some take it to a whole other level. Social media is a narcissist’s dream come true, giving them the ability to re-create themselves as they wish to be and even, the ability to create many false-selves useful for manipulation. Those with good intentions, looking to fill some unmet desire through online experience, are prime targets for those who gain good feelings about themselves by abusing others. Even when there is no abuse intended, people can be deceived by their own imagination filling in the blanks of limited information with what they are looking for in another. When enough time passes for the reality to emerge, people find themselves feeling tricked and used. Sometimes, they are tricked but mostly, they tricked themselves. Online personas aren’t entirely, real but there are real people behind them. Virtual personas can’t feel pain but the people behind them are badly hurt every day.
As I sit in my sunny window, enjoying the warmth and the glow that is a very different reality on the other side of the glass, I consider how God wants me to walk through this new era. How do I maintain joy in a world where most people now, connect virtually more often than in real life. Just as I need warm, sunny days, I need human companionship. How do I participate in the new world, in the midst of so much deception and maintain my joy? The answer comes to me and it comes by the same source that believers have trusted in for answers for many centuries, from God’s Word. It is in allowing God to govern my desires and in my allowing Him to fill my need that protects me from deception. It is in pointing others to Jesus for answers, rather than to me that keeps others from seeing too much in me. Though, I can’t always control how others might imagine me, or always know when they have an ulterior motive, I can trust God’s protection. As in all the ages past, I am to be in the world but not of it, and fulfill my calling by taking the truth about Jesus into a dying world. It isn’t about me, it’s about Jesus and in that fact, I find security from deception. The world is changing rapidly but Jesus remains the same and the joy I have in Him is enough to satisfy every need and desire.