One of the mistakes we make when we go online is to assume that because it is virtual, it is unrelated to virtue. That because things are out there on the Internet, they have no internal effect on our souls. But did you know there is an invisible yet very real string that runs from our laptop screen to our hearts? The question is, which way is it tugging us?
“Keep your heart with all vigilance,” the wise father urges in Proverbs, “for from it flow the springs of life” (4.23).
In the digital age, we understand vigilance—only we call it “staying connected.” We check Facebook countless times per day to see what our friends are up to or if they’ve left any messages on our wall. We have “push” on our phones to alert us of the latest tweet or message. We have news readers that bring us the most recent posts from all around the world wide web. When it comes to our online habits, we are nothing if not vigilant.
But what about our hearts? Do we have alerts set up to warn us if our hearts are being negatively influenced by our Internet habits? Are we constantly monitoring our affections for the things of God? What springs are flowing from our online activity?
It doesn’t take long for the “springs” of my online life to become polluted. I click on a few decorating blogs and before I know it I’m complaining about all the areas in my home that I wish I could change but don’t have the time, talent, or resources. Or, I log on to check the latest news and end up fighting anxiety over the most recent economic crisis, local crime wave, or political development.
Most often, the effect of my Internet use on my heart is gradual. Almost imperceptible. Over time I can become more in tune with the immediate and less aware of the eternal. More dissatisfied with what God has given me and more aware of what others have. More excited about what I can discover online and less excited about what I discover in God’s Word.
The straight edge of Proverbs 4:23 reveals the crookedness of our hearts. And so we would do well to pray with the old hymn:
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.