I stack the dirty plates and bowls in the sink, organizing the chaos before I begin the mundane task of washing them. I pump blue dishwashing soap onto the sponge, and while my hands work to wash bits of breakfast and lunch off the plain white Corelle plates, my mind turns to wandering. I look out the window to watch the next door neighbor doing renovations to their house, and I wonder if stress levels are elevated in their home or if this is a normal part of their life. The wall separating our homes only lets me see the heads of the construction workers and half a window — an opening too small to figure out what room it opens up to and what they could possibly be working on to better their living space.
I don’t know much about our neighbor and his wife except from what I’ve seen and pieced together from our short interactions. The husband is friendly, always waving hi to our kids as they bike by his house, and he walks his two stocky dogs, which remind me of the three-headed dog in the first Harry Potter movie, around the neighborhood at least once a day.
I wonder about their life as I watch through the kitchen window, but at best, I can only imagine the life they lead, what makes them laugh or cry, the level of happiness in their home, and the pain they could be facing. Half a window and neighborhood small talk only give a shadow of a glimpse into their lives and the kind of people they are.
I think about how little we know of people as I scroll through social media later that night. I live vicariously through pictures of my friends’ beach vacations, and I amen every powerful post written about the intersections of faith, life, our humanity, and justice. For a brief moment, I wonder about the people behind the words, the pictures, and the kind of lives they have, the motivation and inspiration that brought them to their phones to share their convictions and art with us. And though I know this little square window only shows a sliver of who they are, I’m quick to create a whole story about them, adding reasonable assumptions and possible details. I create a person in my mind from what I see, and I either elevate them with honor, judge them without insight, or envy them. I flatten a three-dimensional, real human being into a two-dimensional character — someone easy to compartmentalize and understand instead of the complex people they really are.
And then, in the midst of my thoughts, I see Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. The people shout, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:38 ESV), but they can’t see Him fully for who He is. They only see Him for who they want Him to be — a king to rule over them. And He will disappoint them by dying on the cross. They could only see what they could from their perspective, but there was so much more to who Jesus was and why He had come.
My insides squirm as I remember this moment in history, and defensive words come to the tip of my soul, ready to explain away my part in making an angel or demon of someone I don’t know well enough. I want to argue that this is how social media is and that I can’t know better because what I see is all I see and that everyone else is doing it too. But my defense is lacking, and God invites me to sit in the discomfort of my convictions: I only see in part, and what I see is not the whole of someone’s personhood. It’s just a glimpse.
The rebuke is kind because I need it, and my heart softens in repentance. I ask God to remind me every day, every time, I want to reduce someone to a story I make up about them from the slivers of what I get to see on social media: Help me to see the whole humanity of the person as beloved by You.Leave a Comment
Kathleen Burkinshaw says
Thank you Grace, your words resonate with me.I also tend to give my own description to people from the snippets I may see on line or in my own life. I also tend to do this to myself when I try to compare myself with others,and belittling my own qualities forgetting that all of me is beloved to God. Also your poignant words ring true in the way we continue to see/hear racist actions/racist thoughts. Praying you,your loved ones and your readers stay well and safe. Sending a hug ❤
Oh wow, thanks for this powerful message. Lord, help us not to assume we know someone when we really don’t, and to take the time to get to know people from Your perspective! Thank you Grace, for giving us much to think about today.
Ruth Mills says
Simply beautiful. Amen.
connie ker says
I think social media is very negative for young people and people in general. It is almost a competitive platform and can be a place for bullying to occur. Now our country is facing the control of what you say and “freedom of speech” is being contested. Don’t waste your precious time on social media; but it is not a phase, it is here to stay. Sexual predators find social media the perfect connection. I am a senior woman and still like face to face friends, Love your neighbor as yourself.
Lovely, Grace! Good reminders.
This season has been the most difficult to live in the truth you share today. I fasted from Facebook during Lent and it was probably the best thing I could have done. While I loved the connection aspect of it in a time of isolation, I found in many ways it had started eating away at real connection… like an acid. I was envious of those who were still having fun with friends while I sat at home keeping my family and myself safe. I felt angry and betrayed by those who claimed to care about me but dismissed the realities our family lives as we raise BIPOC children in this current environment. I was defensive about the blatant disregard by so many fellow Christians of Christ commands about loving our neighbor, caring for the least of these and defending the oppressed.
The fast was so good for me BUT then it was time to re-engage. I have done this with varying levels of success. This post, Grace… this post was an excellent reminder and guidepost for me to use as I wade back into the waters. Thank you.
Beautifully expressed Grace, thank-you for sharing with us today…..
Blessings to all,
Beth Williams says
It can be so easy to spend hours scrolling through Facebook & get envious of others lives. Wishing & wanting what they seem to have. For that reason I don’t do much social media. May have twitter & Instagram accounts, bur rarely use or look at them Not into that. Recently gotten more into Facebook. Mainly to watch church services, post on podcasts. do Bible studies, & keep in touch with family & co-workers. Keep my platform purely Christian. One rule I make is to only follow people I really know & care about. Those that I see some at work or in community. Don’t want to fall into the trap of judging others without know their whole story. Great post.
Margo Stretch says
This is good Grace. Thank you! Just this morning – during one of my imagined ‘conversations’ with the many people who complain flippantly about ‘the government’ and those leaders who are trying to lead through such an incredible densely complex time… my mind generated a sarcastic question of my own: “yeah, who voted to have these humans in roles of leadership, anyway?” Humans. All of us with the same inherited human condition, struggles, messy stories, no matter what we ‘see’ of these humans and their lives through our limited lens.
Margo Stretch says
I realize that I digressed from your theme of social media per se – so I apologize if this was out of place. (I posted a comment without hitting pause!)
Terri Springer says
Yes, and amen!!
Well said dear one.