Imagine my surprise to discover there’s a shopkeeper on St. Mark Street in the Old City who knows me by name.
Now, I DO have lots of friends, many of them in far-flung places. But this being my first trip to Jerusalem, it startled me a bit to think one of them might have taken up local residence.
It was, of course, my name badge that gave the clever merchant his gambit. Sadly for him, I’m even more cheap than I am naive…so the fake-friendly encounter resulted in no sale.
As I reflected later on his technique, it occurred to me that it’s a talent Facebook (and other social media) have managed to monetize on a much grander scale.
Just as I gave the vendor permission to “know” me by wearing a badge…so do I surrender valuable parts of my identity wherever I “opt in”.
A few in our pilgrimage group have remarked in recent days how spooky these social media encounters end up being. We are often amazed at how well the big players seem to “know” us, even though we ourselves have provided all the clues.
We click. They note, and begin peddling…furiously.
If there’s a Lenten lesson in all this, I think it may lie in our experience of a street-hawk encounter (whether in the flesh, or on our ever-present devices).
Notice how things don’t typically end well. A bargain may be struck…but rarely is it for something I actually need. But in the process, I have frittered away something precious — my identity.
Far better to be known as God knows me…
It truly is stunning to contemplate this truth: The Ancient of Days, who knit me in my mother’s womb… who knew me before I was born…the Holy and Eternal One desires to know me better.
And unlike Facebook, God is encouraging me to grow…not to calcify around group-think, or my ill-informed opinions.
God desires something new in me. That’s what Lent is all about: God, meeting me where I am…and leading me forward. God, ever creating in me and through me. Never using me, but politely asking whether I agree to be used.
God knowing me, loving me, even in my reluctance…my disobedience.
God, never “unfriending” me, or deleting my Tweets.
Let us remember that we are in the presence of the Holy and Merciful One.