A little over a year ago ago a buddy of mine told me that I needed to see this documentary called Catfish. I hadn’t heard of it, but he told me it was very awkward and weird it was, so I was completely curious. If you haven’t seen it, here is my Twitter-style synopsis:
Guy meets a cute girl online and the two become friends. Inconsistencies in the girl’s story begin surfacing. Girl is not who guy thinks.
After Catfish was released and gained notoriety, Nev, whom the movie follows, began receiving correspondence from people with Internet friendships that they were becoming suspicious of. Nev began following up with these stories and Catfish the TV show was born. One person shares the details of their mysterious Internet friend with Nev. He then does puts his Internet stalking skills to the test to find out as much as he can about who mysterious internet friend says they are. He contacts them and tries to set up a meeting to bring the two friends together. This roll of the dice is where the magic of the show happens. Who exactly will the person on the other side be?
Like a lot of other Millennials, becoming friends with people over the internet was a significant and important part of my adolescence. I never met these people (except one, actually!), but we developed strong connections through sharing life stories and experiences and beliefs and all of our adolescent, earth-shattering complexities. I never doubted who these people were. They were real. They were who they said they were.
Catfish fascinates me. Sometimes the person on the other side is exactly who the other thinks they are, and their meeting is full of happiness and excitement and joy. Then there are times when the person on the other side is someone completely different than their internet persona. Deception, lies, half-truths, and bewilderment now muddy the connection the two had established through social media, instant messaging, texting, and phone conversations. There was a real person on the other side the entire time, yet there was a different face or body or story or wound that was hidden and is now revealed. The one deceived is put in the position of navigating how to connect to someone they knew but never really knew.
Catfish fascinates me because it narrates my experience of God.
How do I know that God is the God who I’ve been talking to all along? Why won’t God ever meet me? What does it mean to love and feel connected to this God whom I do not see or touch? Is this even real?
I came to know God through a particular set of stories and epithets and texts that I read, heard, and was fed. I eventually had doubts about who that God was and doubts about who I was. I needed to meet that God and find out who he was. I needed to know whether or not I was really as terrible as I thought, and whether the people who didn’t love God really were terrible. I had questions about the nature of love and about goodness and pain. I had questions about questions. I did meet that God.
She was nothing that I expected and everything I hoped She would be, wanted her so badly to be. And I saw Him in the trees before they became paper and before there were words printed on them that told me who He was.
And He loves.
Really loves. Is love. She is that which takes my breath away in the moments when I am so struck by peace, and He is that which fills my lungs up with air when I am dumb. And He invites me to love. She gives me a voice that is her voice. He gives me ears to hear and eyes to see. I’m called into another way. The way of prefigurative grace, where everyone is welcome and everyone is loved, and where power is set aside and I’m just your brother, your servant, never your master.
I met that God and He was not what I expected. But I’m still here. I still want to know Him. I still want to walk in Her light, if ever I can find it and its warmth and share that warmth with others. Will you show it to me and invite me inside it?