My So Called Life
Tell me if this sounds familiar. You’re at a restaurant with several friends, enjoying a night out together, and within minutes every person at the table whips out a phone.
So the scene looks like this: Eight people within an arm’s reach of one another sit in a dimly lit space, faces illuminated by the glow of smart phone screens, together yet somewhere else entirely.
Is this your Friday night, or am I the only one?
Instead of actually enjoying the company of “our favorites,” we spend the night snapping pics of dessert and posting funny quotes we were too busy typing to actually laugh at.
We live online. We spend hours scrolling through the experiences of others. It’s addictive. My phone pinches my leg if I ignore it for too long.
Don’t you want to know what your friends are up to? I wonder if Gaffigan said anything funny on Twitter. Oh, and check Instagram too. When’s the last time you posted a pic?
Social media changed the way we interact with society. It allows people to connect with friends, strangers, and even celebrities. It is essentially acceptable stalking. We even use it as a news source. I learned about the Aurora massacre on Facebook, and hours before the results aired on American television, Twitter informed me that Michael Phelps almost failed to qualify for competition in the London Games.
That is what I love about the online experience, instant information and unprecedented connectivity. Unfortunately, there are drawbacks, namely the room for façade.
Nobody is honest online. We present to others the person we want to be. Of course, most of us don’t do this to mislead. We simply try to place our best foot out front.
Not many people begin their online profiles with, “socially awkward neurotic.” It’s much better to be “shy at first, until you get to know me.”
When we read people’s comments and tweets we are reading their best material, and if we aren’t careful we can assume they have perfect lives.
We thumb through Instagram with envy, forgetting that most of the photos have been filtered into existence.
We drool over Twitter feeds with tweets like “Having dinner with (insert notable person here). This night will go down in history. #epiclife” We never think about what ended up on the cutting room floor. “I fought with my wife the whole way to the restaurant. #killmenow”
Statuses like, “I am about to mow the lawn,” never receive many “likes”, so we hold out for something funny or clever.
Real life just can’t live up to the hype. Much of every day is filled with mundane routine, not to mention struggles and temptations. But “house cleaning” and “porn addiction” never seems to make the Trending Topics list on Twitter.
It is easy to become discouraged by the boring details of our lives and jealous of the experiences we read about online, overlooking the fact that the slow or painful parts have been edited out. We feel unfulfilled.
This is also true of Christendom. Many people have been turned off to Christianity because, in a way, they were given padded expectations. Some believer promised them a life of joy without warning them of the pain that would come to shake it. The believer offered them peace but forgot to explain its purpose, comfort amidst hellish storms.
So, when real life slammed into their fragile faith, they were unprepared.
Christians want to protect Christ’s reputation, so we often smile and pretend like we have it all together. Jesus doesn’t need our protection. Without realizing it, we are actually working against him.
People need to know that we don’t have it all figured, that we struggle with the same things. They need to know that our faith gets challenged.
There is a reason the world scoffs when Christians fall from grace. We spend so much time presenting the best parts of ourselves that when the broken parts inevitably show, people point and say, “See, I knew they were no better.”
And they are right. But Jesus is better, and his grace has invaded our shattered existence. His love is moving us to make better decisions, to become better people.
It may be counterintuitive, but people need to see the tension. They need know they aren’t the only ones with doubts, fears, and missteps.
Grace shines brightest when all the filth it works to cover is laid bare.
Walking with God is easier without the excess baggage of façade. Rick Warren says,
If we spent more time confessing our temptations we would not need to do as much confessing of sins.
I could not agree more. Living in the open is dangerous. It requires vulnerability. But even in the most boring moments it is infinitely more exciting than living online, pining over what someone else claims to be doing a thousand miles away.
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