Social media packages our realities into tidy shareable snapshots and soundbites consumable for our personal audience. Family, friends and acquaintances get to rate our new stories with a click. Is it likable, lovable, laughable—cry-worthy?
Yes, our social media realities are over-simplified, and well—sometimes easier to accept than the reality that isn’t cropped, filtered, or captioned.
I don’t know about you, but when my life doesn’t feel easy to summarize with a post, when my own life feels too complicated to scroll through smiling faces and good news, I often avoid social media altogether. But then I try to remind myself that I blog because I want to be able to represent to others the real, the raw, and the complicated. Not that my words can capture all of the ache and complexity of human life, but I’d rather not hermit and hide the messy stuff. I can’t pretend with you that my life is as simple as my quippy posts or candids of my family’s sweetest moments. But we both know those are only the highs—like the pause of a pinky sunset or long exhale, like the joy of belly laughter, and the butterflies in the belly—the little moments that I think, that you think: this is why we keep living and loving.
But real life means the messy in between where we don’t always have a sweet soundbite or moral to the story. When our hearts are hooked with question marks like what? when? and why?
She has a new spot on her eye that the doctor has to wait and watch to see if it could be melanoma. When will she have answers? Why God does she have to face this uncertainty?—this possibility?
He was told he’s been chosen for this round of lay-offs. Why don’t they appreciate his contributions to the company? Will he have to move his family?
She lives in a hotel with her family of four as they restore their new house from a slab leak, as they watch their bank account drain from repairs that their insurance company won’t cover. Why did they work so hard for this? Will they recover?
His loss feels forgotten by others but he wears his grief like heavy backpack. Days pass in a daze of depression and darkness as he wonders if the ache in his heart will ever ease. When will he feel like life is worth living?
Maybe I’m meeting you in a messy in between too. Whether a loved one is battling an illness and you don’t yet know the outcome, or you’re waiting for a diagnosis, a job offer, or to get pregnant with the baby you’ve longed for, life is full of untidy emotions and messy middles. So often we’re inundated with happy endings and happily ever afters, that we believe the lie that we’re the only ones without answers.
I see you there. Overwhelmed with emotion and yet numb, bitter and tired. I want you to know that while I don’t know your story, I know the loneliness that comes from slanting your experiences to be tidier, more positive, and more digestible to the people around you. The loneliness of feeling like your pain and uncertainty has to be hidden and you have to be brave. The disillusionment that comes from feeling like all this hidden hurt is a waste.
I’m learning that we don’t have to rush through the middle. We can walk through it one moment, one day at a time as uncertainty washes over us. I’m learning that I can trust that when I don’t have the answers I long for, or the faith and confidence I need, that God still is who He says He is.
I think of the Israelites who wandered in the wilderness for forty years. God fed them and quenched their thirst. He guided them. Their clothes and sandals did not wear out.
Day by day, we may not notice God’s little answers to our questions. We may overlook his small provisions. But we can trust they are tucked within these hard moments. We can trust that when we’re through the dark valley, we will look back and see his divine hand. When we find a friend, a mentor, a stranger that holds our hand and catches our tears, as they hold our stories in their open hearts, we can trust that God answers our prayers through people, that will wander with us.
These messy moments can’t be summed up or explained away, but are lived out slowly and painfully, in the hidden moments as we face our fears. As we wonder and wrestle with God. As we let the Holy Spirit and a holy huddle of our closest confidants fortify us with the faith and hope we need, but most of all love. Love makes each messy moment absolutely worth it.