I have favorites too.
I see Magnolia in my feeds frequently. Color Runs seem popular. Chalkboard decor. John Piper quotes. The TV show "This is Us". Chevron, or are we over that now?
It takes less than a minute to look up which celebrities are speaking out against Trump,
what people are saying about Charlottesville,
what people are saying about what Trump is saying about Charlottesville.
I don't have to decide for myself what is in style to wear- I just need to see what goes viral, what everyone else is wearing. And doing. And listening to. My favorite radio station tells me what is popular to listen to. What's current.
It's more personal than that though. Social media gives each person a platform to share their best version of themselves. Without spending any time with an acquaintance, I can know what vegetables she grows in her garden, her opinons about the environment, what concert she has recently gone to, and what she considers the best choices for back to school shopping.
It used to take time to find out so much about our friends. We based our knowledge of our friend from time spent together, usually over a long period of time, not based on a little bit of time together and what we know from social media.
Because we spent time with our friend we knew that they were not a flat character. No one is a flat character, not "regular" people and not celebrities. We had tea at our friend's kitchen table 75+ times and so we knew that she was the most amazing cook ever but we also knew the areas where she struggled because we talked about them over tea and they were observable because of the amount of time we spent together.
We push the flatness. I have to believe we want it. We will like an acceptable "round-ness", if it has curb appeal. We will re-tweet "realness" if it's the right kind. As long as it's not "too much." An acceptable flaw will make our favorite pastor or person even more endearing.
We find Martin Luther King Jr. inspiring, (because he was), and we pretend that he didn't have extramarital affairs, because it doesn't jive with who we think he is or the type of character we think someone who inspires us should have. Suddenly, we say that Trump is a Christian, because we need him to be flat. If there is non-flatness that we cannot deny we say it is solidly in the past and is not part of the current President Trump.
Did you adulate the Duggar family and now that you know the truth about Josh Duggar have you thrown out the whole bunch or just sectioned off Josh and you still wholeheartedly love the Duggars? And why? Why did you or do you love them? Because they are Christian? Because they are wholesome? Because they seem wholesome? Because you wish you had parented like them even in some small area?
I am not a flat character. I don't necessarily apologize for my Instagram posts because I'm not even pretending that they fully represent my life. Of course they don't. They are my delights.
We shape people into flatness. She's a dancer. He's a singer. She's a teacher. He is good at decorating. We leave little room for not just the sin issues that we all struggle with but also for the multi-dimensional aspects of each one of us that make us interesting and uniquely created by God.
I don't want to shout my failures to the world and I'm not suggesting that we do that. I'm not suggesting we ignore hidden & unrepentent sin, or character traits that really need work. Sometimes our "heroes" need a deeper look. They say that Generation Xers are the first generation to not have heroes. (That's for another blog post.) So the closest I have to a hero is Rich Mullins, and he was pretty flawed- likely an alcoholic. However I have listened & listened to what he had to say and he points me to Christ and the Word, over & over again. My favorite artist used to be Mary Engelbreit. But when she gave free use to an image of hers, "Our Bodies, Our Business, Our Rights", that crossed a line for me, with my beliefs. I will never again buy one of her products. Deeper looks of Rich Mullins and Mary Engelbreit produced different results for me. Maybe Martin Luther King Jr. should be your hero and maybe he should not.
But it's even more personal than that though.
We are made UNIQUELY by God. The Bible is full of stories of PEOPLE- all different. When we start to think that maybe we should run a 5K because all our friends are doing it, and for no other reason than that, we are being unduly influenced by our easy exposure to what everyone is doing, thinking and feeling. And our teens are even more susceptible.
Maybe you feel like you should run a 5K because you know that you are not exercising enough. Or maybe it looks like fun and you truly want to try it. Great. But if you are running a 5K because it will look good on Instagram and because it seems to be what everyone else is doing, that's thin reasoning.
Probably one of my most favorite quotes, which did indeed come to me by way of my almost-hero, Rich Mullins, is by Frederick Buechner, and it's a well known one:
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”And that is going to be different for each one of us!! I love that! My calling is not some second-hand recreation of someone else's idea, someone else's life, someone else's giftedness or success, that I have taken hold of because I want my life to look a certain way. Or because I believe that I will be happy with my life if it looks a certain way.
I will not be fulfilled by copying what my friend is sharing on social media- unless it connects deeply with my heart in a God-given way, and the exposure of my friend sharing was what I needed to discover something that would bring me inner joy.
Oh, it's tempting. My friend with the amazing family- I mean AMAZING- they don't have TVs in their house. I know that because she shared it on Facebook and hey, I've shared on Facebook about our screen-free Sundays. But somehow my brain connects that maybe my family could be more amazing if we didn't have TVs in our home, or if we had worship sessions like their family.
And maybe there is a connection but I have my own family and what is God showing ME. Am I looking to his Word for this source of wisdom or without even realizing it am I looking around me to see what would look best on and for my family? Am I mindlessly trying to be another version of what seems hip, or what looks good, or what I wish I was? Am I comparing myself to someone else? Comparing my "roundness" (sometimes literally!) to someone else's flatness?
So find out who God made YOU to be. That is a big prayer I have for my kids and I know the work won't be finished as teens because I am in my 40's and am continuing to figure it out. I think it's exciting.