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It seems our generation is rebranding the term “roaring twenties” in light of our perpetual storms of cocktail hours, dinner parties and weddings.
A few months ago, I attended a wedding so extravagant it would have made Jay Gatsby’s head spin. The bride was a friend from college, and the wedding party’s deck was stacked with a dozen familiar faces from undergrad.
There was one friend I was particularly excited about reconnecting with in person. Though it had been a few years since we had graduated, she and I had kept reasonable tabs on each other through the essential social media sites.
I thought that we'd pass the baton off in the race flawlessly, and the transition from our friendship in the context of college and into the real world would be seamless.
After the ceremony, our conversation was static and jerking; paralyzed before it even began. I could have told you what she had for dinner the night before and her favorite coffee spot via Instagram. Her witty text replies and Twitter updates reflected a stunning woman with ambition in 140 characters or less.
However, I couldn't tell you the important things about her life: what goals she was striving toward, what she valued or what testimony she was walking through.
Of course, we can't be expected to keep a full roster of the intricate comings and goings of all our friends. Shauna Niequist writes about dedicating your time and energy to the "home team"—serving the people closest to you—in her book, Bittersweet.
This was not, as Niequist says, a "middle-of-the-night, no-matter-what" person, but she was someone whom I once considered a dear friend. And that day we both walked away almost shell-shocked from our failed conversation.
The truth is, we really shouldn't have been surprised. We're not fooling ourselves. We've read the studies. No matter how defensive we get on the matter, we know most of us have a tendency to become introverted in the physical world and more outspoken in the digital one.
We write off this social-laziness as being "adorkable." But, have we stopped to think about what this is doing to our ability to be a witness for Christ?
Throughout our middle and high school years, there seemed to be a calling to abandon the Jonathan Edwards "sinners in the hands of an angry God" means of evangelism and a push for bringing people to Christ through our friendships.
"Being a Christian isn't about following a religion," we would explain to our peers when we felt it was appropriate. "It's about having a relationship with Christ."
There is merit to that. Leading someone gently to the Christian faith through friendship has the potential to be life-altering. When faith is born and strengthened out of friendship, we're able to relate to one another, sharpen each other's irons (Proverbs 27:17), foster community and live whole-heartedly for Christ.
I realized at my friend's wedding that I had let that part of my life slip. I was only feigning friendship in blips and flashes on my iPhone screen. I was too busy for coffee talks and dinner dates that unfurled in the tangible world. I was selfish with my time, so I settled for one-dimensional, online friendship.
The problem with that way of living was that I couldn't hold a ten-minute conversation with an old friend. How in the world could I expect to be prepared to develop a relationship that would lead someone to Christ?
We live a life of virtual extravagance. We exchange our secrets, apprehensions, struggles, addictions and announce our good, bad and ugly news online. This is the reality of our time. This is how our generation does friendship.
Christ understood these sorts of cultural parameters when he spoke in parables. The very nature of his teachings revolved around being relevant to his audience, ministering in ways that his followers could relate.
What if we followed suit?
What if we used this technology for developing community and swam with the technological current? What if we used social media as a ministering tool rather than admonish it or deem it as a "time-waster"? What if we sent texts and Facebook messages that drew us into one another, our struggles and our pursuits?
What if we used these mediums as springboards to deeper connections? And what opportunities are we missing by being reluctant to have in-person friendships?
That night, my friend and I made a pact to no longer let opportunities for community slip through our texting, liking, and pinning fingers. We want to have the remainder of our twenties to be roaring with valor, kindness and love for others; both online and at weddings.
We want to have friendships based on more than just pictures of our dinner plates.
Brett Wilson is a Christ-loving, single, curly-haired, left-handed coffee-addict. She is a public relations writer in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Brett lives with her best friend and a Boston Terrier named Regis. You can read more from Brett at her site, www.prodigalsister.com, or on Twitter.
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