Appearances – as in keeping up with.
“It looks like you are living your dreams, doing what you want,” my friend said. “I keep up on your life through Facebook.” Our families were having lunch together and I wasn’t in a position to go into a lengthy explanation with my friend about how things aren’t always as they seem and it has been bothering me ever since.
It took me a while to join the wave of people who were part of the Facebook social networking community. To me, it just seemed like one more thing to do that I didn’t have the time for. Plus, I wasn’t too excited about being contacted by people from my past. It surprises many people who know me that this curly girl has introverted tendencies, but I do. However, a speaking mentor insisted that I would need to get involved in social networking if I wanted more opportunities to speak, so I grabbed my boogie board and jumped on the wave.
Now I love Facebook ~ even the introvert in me! It has allowed me to remain in contact with people with whom I would otherwise lose touch. I can check in on family too far away to see on a regular basis, to see baby pictures, and share in the success of others. But I have felt a downside to social communities, too.
It can be a sea of temptation where undertows of discontentment and comparison are often stirred. Where, at times, friends are only seeing the pretty blue, calm surface of our lives and, if we are honest, appearances are not always what they seem.
I don’t think any of us do it intentionally. It’s not as though we say to ourselves, “I think I will go on Facebook today and make everyone else feel bad about themselves by sharing all the wonderful things that are going on in my life – my travels, my accomplishments, my picture perfect family.” It is certainly not at all what I think when I share ~ I just want to share the great waves I catch on this ride of life. It doesn’t seem right to share those times when I crashed on the ocean floor.
I don’t want to bring people down. I want to be positive. I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. I want to appear always grateful. Who wants to be a Debbie Downer? But maybe it’s really about not wanting to be that vulnerable. And I don’t think I am alone.
Sure, we will post when something really serious happens in our lives that is out of our control ~ an injury or illness. We will ask for prayer…and we should. But what about those days when I am feeling so insecure about myself because I haven’t heard anything back from publishers regarding the seven personal stories I sent out. What about the days I worry that I am getting old and less attractive, that my hair might be thinning and it is hard to be a curly girl for God if you don’t have any hair. What about the struggles I have with anxiety and the days my husband and I just can’t get along. Do I really want to be that vulnerable with my 154 friends?
Maybe not all of them. Maybe not always. But I do think I owe my friend a Facebook message with an explanation. Friend, things are not always as they appear. Best not to completely judge me by my Facebook posts. Sure, life is wonderful most of the time…but there are many times in between status updates when life is, frankly, just okay or not great. And that’s okay. That’s life. Maybe not Facebook life, but it is real life.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Psalm 139:15
Appearances. They aren’t always what they seem. Don’t judge a book by its cover. All that glitters is not gold. I don’t know why writers get so upset about clichés; after all, they do convey a message in an effective manner. I guess it’s because they are just so…well, cliché. But back to appearances, what I am trying to say is you don’t always get what you pay for and what you see is not always what you get.
Years ago I had an acquaintance who was a fairly wealthy young woman. She drove a very nice Mercedes but also liked to dress very casually. Sometimes she would run her errands wearing jean shorts with holes in them and an old t-shirt; sometimes she might not even wear make-up. One day her car broke down within walking distance of a Mercedes dealership, so she walked over to talk to them about getting her car fixed. Who knows? She might have even been interested in buying a new car.
On this particular day, this gal was dressed very casually, her hair might have been less than coiffed and she told me she was definitely wearing that old t-shirt and pair of jean shorts. By the time she got to the lot, she might have even been a little sweaty and disheveled. When she walked onto the lot she was appalled at the way she was treated. No one came rushing over to see if she needed assistance, the sales force wasn’t fighting to see who would get to show her the latest Mercedes model; in fact, she could barely get anyone to talk to her. Are you surprised that the dealership didn’t get any of her business?
It’s human nature to make assessments about life based on what we see or hear and that is not always a bad thing. In fact, this ability to make judgments based on our assessment of people and our surroundings has probably kept us safe in many situations. Even so, I believe this is an area of life that requires self-examination from time to time.
Am I treating someone differently because I believe they are wealthy? Or lazy?
Am I giving preferential treatment to someone who looks like me, assuming they are like me?
Am I avoiding those I perceive to be very different from me?
Am I ignoring the ones that might make me feel embarrassed?
Hard questions to ask; harder yet to answer. When I find myself making mental assessments about people based on their appearances, I am often reminded of my wealthy young acquaintance. It doesn’t always keep me from falling into the trap of faulty first impressions, but sometimes it does. Have you ever found yourself in that trap? If so, let’s remind each other of how God feels when we fall into this way of thinking.
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? James 2:1-4
Conditions – more specifically, perfect conditions. I recently participated in a women’s half marathon. It took a while for me to commit to the venture, and by the time I did, I only had about twelve weeks to get into shape. Less than perfect conditions.
I found a handy chart that plotted the daily workouts I would need to complete to prepare me for the big day. I followed the plan faithfully…well, mostly faithfully. Less than perfect conditions.
Over the past few years I have allowed a few extra pounds to creep on. Well, maybe more than a few. It isn’t easy to lug around several sacks of potatoes, as I like to lovingly call my extra weight. I had hoped to lose at least some of it by the race, but even with the extra exercise, I just couldn’t seem to shed any serious poundage, so I would be carting those potato bags with me on race day. Less than perfect conditions.
Prior to the race, the longest distance I had walked at one time was a little over 11 miles. A half marathon is 13.1 miles. I was venturing into unknown territory wondering if I would have the endurance to go a little further than I had before. Less than perfect conditions.
Race day was clear and beautiful. The sun was shining brightly…at times, a little too brightly. It got warm…much warmer than my climate controlled gym. In workouts, I stayed the course…a flat course void of inclines; however, the race course had several hills that I was not prepared for. Less than perfect conditions.
Oh, and I waited until I turned 50 to give this half marathon thing a try. Really less than perfect conditions.
In spite of all the ways that conditions were less than perfect for me to participate in this race, I ran it anyway. Well, run may be a bit of an exaggeration, it was more like an awkward walk/jog thing. And, you know what? It was a blast! I found the endurance to complete 13.1 miles on my own two feet, in spite of a lack of training, never having gone that far before, heat and hills, and extra weight. Conditions were far less than perfect, and yet, it was perfect.
How many times in life do we avoid doing something because we are waiting for perfect conditions? As one who marginally struggles with perfectionism and expectations, I am the first to admit that I can easily fall into this trap and believe the lie. And it is a lie, after all. There is no such thing as perfect conditions. At best we may be able to achieve ideal conditions, but perfect? I don’t think so.
So what are you waiting for? Perfect conditions? I hope not!