Word of the Year: Unfriend

Fran pointed me to this on Facebook:

“Unfriend” has been named the word of the year by the New Oxford American Dictionary, chosen from a list of finalists with a tech-savvy bent.
Unfriend was defined as a verb that means to remove someone as a “friend” on a social networking site such as Facebook.
“It has both currency and potential longevity,” said Christine Lindberg, senior lexicographer for Oxford’s U.S. dictionary program, in a statement.
“In the online social networking context, its meaning is understood, so its adoption as a modern verb form makes this an interesting choice for Word of the Year.”

Fran also points out that God never “unfriends” us. No matter what we do, how far away we may turn from God we are always in God’s news feed.

I’m also reminded that we are also called to stay connected to one another–no matter what and no matter what someone else may do. Besides being at the heart of marriage, it is also at the heart of our concern for the least of those amongst us–as well as those close to us, who sometimes we are all too ready to chuck to the curb when they annoy us “for the last time.” We’re called to stay in the network, to hash out our differences, to forgive 70 times 7 times.

Not an easy task for any of us. But it’s all-too-easy to give up hope. It’s easy to simply hit “unfriend” and move on. And moreover, it’s harder to tell when those around us who have abused their power or our trust can no longer remain in our networks for our own safety and perhaps even harder to let that person go because they are really the ones who hit “unfriend” first.

It seems to me that this is all about relationship and our own need for control. We want to control our decisions in who we associate ourselves with and who we don’t. And there’s wisdom there but there’s also the shadow side of alienating those who we dismiss too easily or superficially.

Who can depend on you staying in their network when the chips are down? Who knows that you’ll keep those lines open when they are in their darkest moments? And when you are in trouble, know that Jesus is always there pointing you towards someone in your network who might remind you that God indeed is never far away.

God is always in connection…we always have access and grace allows us to know that the lines of communication are never down.

It’s what we call prayer. Simply put, it is staying in the conversation with God. Talking but also staying still and listening with God. It is noticing what is all around us and how God has a hand in all of it. And often we think that God doesn’t answer our prayers, that requests go unanswered. Grandparents still die, children lose limbs, our children don’t kick the drug habit despite our constant prayers. So some would ask why we should stay in connection?

God indeed doesn’t always give us what we think we want in prayer, but as anyone who prays knows deeply: God may not give us what we WANT but he always gives us what we NEED. A kind word, a helping hand, the knowledge that we are not alone, the gentle caress of our spouse or the warm embrace of a child. Even the loyalty of a good dog can somehow be enough for us. It is the pleasures of simple gestures that really get us through the tough times. Those are what we always remember most.

And they all spring from a one word plan: love.

Love causes us to stay in the commitments that we are in and indeed enables us to get through the challenges that befall us. And when we think about committing to love one another we need to remember that on this last Sunday of the year where we celebrate Christ who is King, a King who went unrecognized, rejected and crucified. His love that brought him to Calvary also brought him well beyond that road.

And as we end this year and head into Advent let us remember that the God we believe in understands being unfriended and as he lies in the manger this Christmas, know that God’s commitment to us is indeed that God is always amongst us. Not a click away but in the deepest stirrings of our own hearts.

And because of that commitment, when it could have been easy for God, who constantly has been unfriended by our sin, God who comes to us anyway, calls us to stay in the network with the world: connected, not loosely, but intimately with everyone.

It is His love for us that defeats death.

Staying connected…defeats death.

Showing concern…defeats death.

“Unfriend” is the word of the year they say…and I say nonsense.

Unfriend is the cop-out of eternity.

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks for posting this reflection that took off after I heard that homily about "unfriending." I have neglected my church blog so I may just link to you.Peace to you dear Mike.


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