Some days I could sit here for hours staring at the blank screen, waiting for words to come out - waiting for my ridiculously tangled thoughts to organize themselves so I can put something down that makes sense.
But I suppose that's every writer's struggle.
Some days, I have a great idea that I want to write about, and I've spent a few days actively untangling my thoughts - only to sit and stare for hours at a blank screen, wondering if I'm just rehashing the same things others have said a hundred times before.
But I suppose that's every writer's struggle.
And some days - the worst of all - I don't sit here at all, don't even turn on my computer, because after too many mornings of comparing myself to every other writer and blogger and Bible teacher in the world (at least the ones I can find on Instagram) I feel that all my thoughts, even the tangled ones, have evaporated.
And I think this is more than every writer's struggle - it's every person's struggle, to at least some extent.
I used to think that social media was a way of keeping up with friends, developing connections, and observing the little things they share - but now I realize that, for me and maybe for most of us, social media isn't a window. It's a mirror.
When I open up Instagram, it's not usually because I'm dying to catch up with old friends. In fact, I find that I care very little about anything posted there (unless it's from one of the three-ish people I've made a real-life investment in). I'm not excited to see another picture of someone's baby, I don't want to celebrate someone's great day, I don't want to mourn with someone's sadness. I don't want to look through the window into anyone else's life.
I just want to stare at my own reflection - paralyzed - and find fault.
Maybe if YOU had a baby, people would be interested in your life and you'd have friends, I hear my mind say to the critical eyes staring back at me. Maybe if YOU were as ____ as that person is, you'd have had a great day too.
Maybe if I was charismatic.
Maybe if I took more selfies.
Maybe if I even looked good in selfies.
Maybe if I could show off my next big trip across the world.
Maybe if I could write long, sappy captions.
Maybe if I could put up a great pretense of vulnerability.
Maybe then I'd be able to open up this screen every day and have something put-together and pretty to say. Something people would be excited to read. Something that would position me as an expert, that would garner respect, that would make somebody love me...
Something that wouldn't take hours of sitting in silence to untangle.
But when I close up the apps and I take my eyes off myself, when I shut out the voices and listen hard for His, a quiet realization slips into my soul: I don't want to write put-together and pretty. I want to write the truth.
And I really, really don't want to gain a "following" - or respect, or love - on pretense. If I am ever blessed with any of those things - even just a drop - I want it to be for what's true, not for what's popular.
I want it to be because my eyes were set firmly on Jesus, not on myself.
When I'm looking at me, I don't get anywhere. I either stand there in a useless trance cutting myself down with criticism, or I try to move forward and immediately trip over myself because I wasn't watching where I was going. But when I'm looking at Him - the steady and determined face of the One who leads me so carefully, so compassionately forward toward the Throne - the race hardly seems difficult anymore.
It's as if half my burden has already rolled off my back.
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
I'm picking on Instagram not because it's inherently evil, but because it's my biggest encumbrance in this area at the moment (and let's be real, the best and most uplifting people in my life are rarely the ones that spend their lives updating Instagram). The truth is, comparison and discontentment have existed - and entangled us - since the beginning of time, not just since the beginning of social media (just go read the story of Cain and Abel).
What's your mirror? What keeps your eyes trapped on yourself when power and freedom are waiting in Him?
Update: After writing this post, I was so convicted about my attitude every time I looked at Instagram that I decided to go through the list of everyone I followed and "lay aside the encumbrances." (Somehow, I was following over 250 people!) I systematically removed users that:
- I didn't know or barely knew in real life
- I knew in real life but hadn't made any genuine effort to cultivate my real-life relationship with
- I couldn't remember why I was following
- I was only following for the coupon deals (crazy how many business suck us in that way)
- Consistently inspired feelings of irritation, bitterness, or self-centeredness in me
I ended up removing over 160 users, and the great thing is - I don't miss them.
I don't miss being annoyed every time I pick up my phone.
I don't miss feeling less-than every time I see a new picture.
In truth, less than a day later, I can't even remember who most of those 160 people were.
And don't hear me wrong: I don't say this because I believe we need to banish everything that doesn't "serve us" from our lives. I don't say this because I think those 160 people are toxic or trying to pull me away from Jesus. I say this because I'm responsible for my own heart-attitude, and if I let anything become a stumbling block in my walk with God, that's on me.
This is only one small step in what needs to be a complete change of heart and attitude, but it's the right first step for me.