The house is clean for what feels like the first time in months. Don’t get me wrong; we know how to make things look clean. It normally happens in the stressful hour before company comes over. Quick! We’re having people over! Everybody start cleaning as fast as possible!
Heather and I joke that we invite people over to ensure we clean once in a while. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not dirty people. We love a good clean house as much as the next person. But the reality right now in our life? With 3 jobs, 4 kids, extra projects, and just the 2 of us? On many days we just run out of time.
So the house is clean for the first time in months. And I have this thought cross my mind: I should take a picture. I should take a picture of my life and post it on Instagram. Or Facebook. I love to post pictures on Instagram, particularly of a highlight moment on a highlighted part of my day. These highlights, if strung together properly, give the illusion that my house is always clean. My children always obey me. My wife always is smitten with me. In other words, if I take the right picture at the right moment and post it online, my life might appear perfect.
We all want to appear as if our lives are perfect. The reality is that this ain’t no instagram life. Not in my house anyway. Seen my garage? It’s a disaster. Seriously, a disaster. And I keep thinking “I’m going to get to it one day” but it just never happens. Or my closet that has had piles of clothes for MONTHS. Seriously…months. Here is the laundry pile that MAY get folded this week- probably not. My office is a wreck. My cars are dirty. Get my point?
Clearly, I don’t live in an Instagram world. And my hunch is that you don’t either. But if I take a picture of the best parts of my life, I can give you the illusion I have things under control. Why do we do this? Because though we crave real intimacy and authenticity, we’re also scared if the world saw all our messy and dirty and not instragram-perfect parts of our lives, people would reject us. The fear of being alone causes us to hide. And though we turn to social media like FB or Instacrack to make us feel connected, research shows for most people it makes them feel a little more alone. The reasons behind this are numerous, but when we only show each other the perfect parts, the notion is that everybody else is doing better than I am. Clearly, we would do better to stop showing each other the best parts, and instead show the real parts.
There’s a great article on the danger of Instagram’s Envy Effect found here. The author writes, “My life looks better on the Internet than it does in real life. Everyone’s life looks better on the internet than it does in real life. The Internet is partial truths—we get to decide what people see and what they don’t. That’s why it’s safer short term. And that’s why it’s much, much more dangerous long term.”
And not to sound like a prude, but I do worry about the long term impact that our cyber-virtual-social networks are playing on real friendships and real community. The reality is that Instagram is fun. Facebook can be a way to connect. But these are only tools towards friendship, not real relationships. Have you ever checked your FB live feed and felt more alone? Or haven’t you noticed groups of friends sitting down around a restaurant table and everyone is starting at their phones? Or husbands and wives on a date and both typing away on their phones? I’m as guilty as the next person about staying connected, but we must ask ourselves when connectivity is actually a death sentence for real relationship with someone near you. For me, I don’t want to over rely on social media to fill the lonely parts of my life.
Real life is messy. Way messier than social media can communicate. Way more ugly at times, but way more beautiful too. Along with my messes, I can show you some of the beautiful “snapshots” of my life recently. I can show you the picture of our cute front yard where we’ve recently planted flowers. The picture of my date with my wife last Thursday where it felt like we were newlyweds again. The picture of my kids playing together so happy down at the beach on Wednesday. Boy, I could show you other snapshots to show you how blessed and fortunate I am. Shots to break your heart. But a snapshot won’t adequately communicate the love I have for my wife. The way we laughed tonight when we danced to Taylor Swift. The tears that came yesterday when I saw the sunrise hit the top of the Olympic mountains. Real life is so much more beautiful than my iphone can ever capture.
See for all of us, we have so much to be thankful for. So many “snapshots” that really are incredible and relationships to celebrate and a roof over our head and food to be thankful for. But perfection isn’t attainable on this planet and the sooner we give up the fantasy that someone else’s life is perfect, the sooner we can get busy with trying to see the very best in our non-instagram lives. No marriage is perfect- they all take work. So start working, start investing in your partner, schedule a date, make love, enjoy one another, and talk about the real issues you’d rather hide in the garage. And your kids? The ones that talk back once in a while and that you’re secretly worried might have serious need for therapy in the future because of your parenting skills? Take them to the park this afternoon and instead of taking pictures of them and posting them to FB or Instagram as a statement to the world “SEE I AM A GREAT PARENT BECAUSE I TAKE MY KIDS TO A PARK”. No instead of posting those pictures, leave your phone in the car and just enjoy them. Tackle a house project of something that bugs you and leave the other 14 things that bug you for another night, another week, another month. Because it’s an illusion to think you’re ever going to “do it all.” Give up the obsession with the busy life.
The bible says that “We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!” (1 COR 13:12 MSG). This is our life, all of us, and at times it feels quite foggy. Its not till we see Jesus face to face that we’ll finally experience true perfection. I imagine that moment, of finally seeing Jesus face to face, when we get to know him directly, and I hope I have my iphone. Because I most certainly will be posting that picture on Instagram.
But here on earth? No this ain’t an Instagram life. It’s hard at times and chaotic. But it’s also very beautiful. Yes we have messes and piles of stuff to do and real relationships that need our care. But the God in heaven that made all this stuff wants us to pause and stop glorifying everyone else’s life and start living our own. He’s made us, loved us, called us, and sends us into our world to let other people know: He loves them too.
It ain’t no Instagram life. But it’s a beautiful life.