September 9 is and always shall be Anti-Internet Day for me. No, I’m not an Internet-hater, and no, I don’t think the Internet is inherently evil. Obviously I love the internet, or else I would be writing this on paper instead of in a blog. Anti-Internet Day is about freedom from addiction.
For the last two years of high school I lived a double life. By day I lived a relatively normal life, doing school work, going to church, and competing in extracurricular activities. But by night I lived a completely differently online in XXX role playing games. Online I got to be all the vile things I was too scared to be in the regular world. (I’ll spare you the details of all that; what’s the point in rolling around in muck in order to talk about how nice it is to be clean?) I liked my double life and was fully prepared to continue living it forever. I knew all the church stuff and believed most of it; I had, after all, been raised in a pastor’s home. But I had managed to justify my hypocritical existence, telling myself things like, “It’s not real,” “It’s just a bit of fun,” and “The Bible wasn’t talking about this because this is the Internet and the Bible doesn’t apply here.” I built up this shell of lies and justification around me so much that I was deaf to reason and sense.
Five years ago today I encountered God in a way I never had before. I don’t remember what specifically happened, and I don’t remember what was said or who said it. But I know that the effect was that of God striking my shell with a sledgehammer and shattering it into a million billion pieces. Suddenly I could hear Truth and could see myself for what I was: A liar wrapped in chains of addiction and perversion. The Truth showed me that what I did online was in fact real, for Jesus said that “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). If the thought-life counts the same as action-life in God’s eyes, then everything I did in that “game” was just as real as if I had done it with another person. The Truth showed me that while what I did seemed like it was just a bit of fun, “there is a way that seems right to a person, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12). While I don’t think my online actions were necessarily going to result in my physical death, they certainly killed me spiritually – and without me even realizing it. The Truth showed me that while the Bible doesn’t talk specifically about the Internet, it is not silent on the matter, for “the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12; emphasis added). My thoughts were as far from righteous as is possible to be.
Knowing this Truth allowed me to be set free. I am free to live without fear of being discovered. I am free to live without exhaustion from living two lives. I am free to speak truth to others without being hypocritical. I am free to live life without bondage. I am free to worship God without condemnation. I am free to live my life to the fullest.
I’d like to say that I was so radically changed that day five years ago that I never struggled with my online identity again. I’d like to say I never stumbled or did stupid things again. But that would be a lie, and part of the New Me is not lying to myself or to others. Of course I have struggled and of course I have stumbled; I am an imperfect person living in a fallen world. The differences is that I don’t live in that place of addiction any longer. When I fall, I don’t stay down in the mud. I remember what that life was like and I never want to go back.