Not all of you, dear readers, are my true and sublime Facebook friends, although many of you are, and so perhaps some of you don’t know that there is a truly glorious meme percolating along. Basically, you compose you’re features into a disappointed frown and then, grasping onto my book, you take a selfie. Then you put it on Facebook, and hopefully tag me, and then your friends get on and say, “What gives?” “Why no smiling?” “Boy your sure don’t look happy.” Then, finally pressed, in the comments you eventually give up and explain that it’s a thing, and that the book is for angry people. And usually always someone comments and says, “Phew! I’m angry! I could used a book like that.” As you can see, a brilliant marketing campaign carefully thought out and planned by…can I blame God for this? Or someone?
It is partially my fault for putting up a picture of myself holding my own book and looking totally put out, like Meryl Streep facing down the reality of a Trump presidency, or Madonna, discovering that she’s not getting any younger. I swear, the first time I got to hold my own book and my friend snapped a picture, I was not the Least Bit disappointed. I was overwhelmed, and surprised, mostly by how fat it was. As I have already said, when you get to the line where it says, “This book is only very tiny and you will lose it,” I swear I wasn’t lying. It must have been God having some kind of sick joke. If you “let it fall lightly away” it will probably really hurt when it lands on your toe.
But for real, I’m so glad some of you are enjoying the book and telling your friends and leaving Amazon reviews. Happiness doesn’t even begin to describe it.
And I’ve been thinking about this meme–the sour expression of true enjoyment–and trying to put my finger on why it’s so wonderful, and why I love it so much. I mean, besides the obvious fact that it feeds rather than diminishes my #lifeasanarcissist. I think it must be that it’s as if there’s a tiny sliver of room for reality to break out into a usually carefully crafted, Pinterest pinned, Instagramed Christianity.
Because, truly, is the Christian life all peaches and sunshine? Aren’t there moments of real discouragement? Of looking into the future and thinking, “If Jesus doesn’t come back this instant I’m done for?” I feel like we’ve been knocked back by many waves of the power of positive thinking, of imagining that to be a good Christian with a good witness we have to be H-A-P-P-Y all. the. time. If we aren’t, our unbelieving friends won’t want to be with Jesus, which would be awful, and so we carry a brittle smile through the whole Sunday morning, hoping we won’t be the person that makes the visitor run away screaming. Or maybe I’m only talking about myself?
The thing is, life is hard, even when you’re not a Syrian refugee. No matter what you have going on there are moments where you have to face the reality of it just being tough–of people you love dying, of your car needing work, of forgetting your lunch and your gloves, of not having enough time to finish a project the way you wanted, of your flight being delayed so that you miss your connection, of wackos coming in to shoot the place up. In this life, promises Jesus, you will have trouble. You will, and so will everyone else.
But don’t worry, he says. Don’t be anxious. (What a thing to say, though. “Don’t be anxious.” Sure man. I’ll get right on that.) In everything give thanks, with prayers and supplications, let your requests be made known to God. You know. ‘Made known’ like a baby makes it known that he has had enough and it’s time to leave. The way a beggar makes it known that he is hungry and cold. Desperation is what I’m talking about. Being right at the end of your tether and crying out for help Now. I don’t know how to do that and keep my smile in tact.
But, you know, the smile is on the other side. It’s ok to smile too. The relief when you thought you were going to lose your mind and then didn’t, that’s worth a big grin. Joy and happiness are definitely in the mix. It’s not like Christians have to be dour either, reminding everyone all the time how evil it all is.
Reality is truly a good way to go–not lying, neither about the difficulties, nor the triumphs. But that is so hard out there in the Facebook world where throngs can scroll by and either smack you with a thumbs up, or not say anything, which is usually worse. We get to judge each other instantly, and comment. It’s a dangerous space, social media, to be “real” or my favorite, “authentic”. (That’s a joke, I hate that word.)
That’s why I’ve created some various rituals to insulate myself from the continual stream of my own emotion and everyone else’s. Like, I don’t share articles I haven’t myself written, on Facebook, much. I gather them carefully all week, and read them, and then link them in my Monday links. It helps me to tot them up and review the fact that I Did read Something. And I’ve been trying to leave my phone on Matt’s desk while I’m doing school, so that I won’t even know when someone is trying to reach me. Although, for real, I keep actually not doing this one. And, when I wake up at 3am, I’ve been trying to count backwards from a million, rather than scrolling through Twitter. You’d think I’d get right back to sleep but it doesn’t really work.
I’ve come to the conclusion that, like in every other realm of life, it is possible to be a Christian and be on Facebook and Twitter. It’s possible even to be a good Christian. Even when the opportunities for downfall are ever present, and the memes are never ending, it could be that, in my flesh, with my shiny screen and my tiny keyboard, I will yet see God. Him, and not another.