As soon as I heard these words, it kind of stopped me in my tracks. After all, It kind of summed up my life. I am a dreamer. Heck, about 99% of small business owners on social media platforms such as Instagram pivot their marketing around being those "dreamers, movers, shakers." And by all means, they are. We are. But what I fear is that this special platform of social media and the culture we live in, is the ability to form an outside world completely under your control, which in turn, completely undermines your actual real life, day to day activities. You find yourself longing to check your posts, your likes, your comments, your followers. You find yourself checking your phone in every stale moment and dreaming of the next worthy moment to capture and tell your friends. All of a sudden your life is measured on a scale of checks and balances. Real relationships are thrown out the window for a perfectly aligned mirage of beautifully placed pictures and a perfectly wrapped package of your "life" to either affirm or destroy your self worth: your place in this world. After all, if it's not captured, did it really happen?
And not to spoil the ending or anything but, YES. It did happen. Even if you didn't get a picture of it. Or talk about it. It seems like in today's culture we are needing affirmations for our experiences when our experiences were always made to just be an experience for ourselves. When I was ten, I saw the Grand Canyon for the first time. lt forever changed me and stirred this adventurous spirit inside of me to go and explore and do. I have a picture from that moment with my brother and sister sitting dangerously close to the edge with a mouth full of braces. It is one of my favorite pictures because it was a moment I will never forget. However I feel like if that picture were to happen today, that magical moment would get smeared when I publish that picture on social media and begin to see who all responds. My thoughts are no longer on the moment- my thoughts are also, who thinks this moment is great? I need to find joy in my experience, not find joy in what other's think of my experience.
I recently read an article about "Recapturing the Joy of Awe." A man named Mike Cosper was interviewed about his book entitled " Recapturing the Wonder: Transcendent Faith in a Disenchanted World" (I have not read this book, just this article). He gave some wise insight as to our struggle to find contentment and joy in today's society.
"We are inherently religious creatures. Every culture finds a way to be religious, whether it’s by worshiping a lizard god, worshiping impersonal forces, or making gods out of human beings—god kings, priests, oracles, and so on. The transactional nature of religion is always the same: worshipers make an offering of some sort in exchange for a blessing. The gods promise health/fertility/power/safety, and we seek those blessings through various sacrifices.......
.....Another has evolved with social media, where every post is sort of an offering seeking the approval of the “mob.” The offering goes out, and the mob, we hope, smiles back with “likes” and “favorites,” demonstrating approval of our lives.
In a way, it’s an anxiety-reliever. We need to know we’re in good standing with the world—and, without transcendent categories, we can only gain that affirmation from one another. I believe it’s what makes social media so addictive, and so predictable. Selfies, food photos (I’m guilty there), vacation photos, sunsets—they’re all a way of saying, “My life is good; my life is interesting.” And the likes and favorites are a way of hearing back from the mob, “Amen. Go in peace.”
This was a swift punch in my gut. As an artist and someone who uses Instagram as a platform to show my work as well as a platform to talk about Jesus- the lines get murky sometimes. Sometimes I make things for myself and show it to talk about what the Lord is doing in my life. What I found was happening, was that as soon as I would show it, it was no longer about what the Lord did. It was about what others thought of what I just wrote about. You should just know, that this is not easy to write out. And honestly, It's a little embarrassing. I always prided myself in not caring what others thought and using my platform as a way to reach the masses and to be a voice of transparency and authenticity and hope. But what I found was that I was beginning to pull my worth from what others thought and how they responded. And slowly but surely this began to deteriorate my creativity and my drive to speak hope. It began to deteriorate my worth. It did start my drive to find "instagram worthy" photos. It did start to drive this anxiety within me to have the "next big thing." Or to keep up the pace. And before I realized it, I was that of a homeless beggar asking for more while continuously empty.
As I began to reveal this new found revelation to my husband and my neighborhood group at church, it became very clear that I needed to step away for a time in order to give my heart and worth back over to the One who rightfully owns it.
"But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols. Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror," declares the Lord. "My people have committed two sins: they have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water." Jeremiah 2: 12-13
I found myself digging a broken cistern in Instagram and social media and coming up as dry as the desert. I am just like the Israelites. "They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves." Jeremiah 2: 5. My worth had become black and blue by the blows of what I wanted the world to think of me. I gave my worth over to Instagram and took it away from the spring of living water that made me, formed me and breathed life into my lifeless body.
So there I was, holding my battered and bruised heart and walking back to my unfailing love.
With my head down, laying my phone on the floor, the Lord lifted me up saying "Return, faithless people," declares the LORD, "For I am your husband. I WILL CHOOSE YOU."
The Lord was giving me my worth back, but not without feeling the sting of the damage I had done. On my first day of "no social media," I felt the need to tell everyone what I was going to do. After all, they would probably wonder what was going on, right? But you know what? I didn't. Mainly because I knew my own wretched heart and my motives. If I was going to give it up, it needed to be about handing my worth back to Jesus and not care what anyone else thought. Even if that meant that I was putting my business in "jeopardy" or heaven forbid, becoming someone that people would forget about.
And the beauty of it all? No one cared. I left for a week with no words, no pictures, no updates. And not one response in return. It was a fitting image of what I was giving my heart to, and what I was finding my worth in. After all, social media was no longer being a platform to share my heart of what The Lord was doing in me. It had become a feeding ground for my worth and accomplishments.
I believe the first day I picked up my phone to check it almost every hour. I caved twice the first day and opened it up to see the first image, immediately feeling shame for needing to know what was going on. It was like a microscope into my heart. I had no idea how much damage had been done that it would leave me desiring social media like a hungry man desires food. It became the steak on a plate that I feel like I needed to survive.
After the first day, I half expected the Lord to dig in with "how could you's" and shame. But what I received was quite the opposite. What I received was a slow and steady pour of water. He was filling my cup and reminding me where my worth was found. The absence of my phone was allowing opportunities for the Lord to speak into me through His word, music and a overwhelming wave of grace over my life as I began to create again. I picked up a paint brush and I began to therapeutically spend time with my creator while I did what I loved. He was meeting me where I was at and calling me close to Him in the process. As if He was saying "let ME fill you up, let ME show you your worth, let ME love you unconditionally."
I spent the week in repentance as I realized this strange thing of social media had become an idol I was worshipping. And in the middle of the week with not one person noticing it became obvious I was wounded and there would be no healing found from my abuser, my idol. I handed my worth over to an Idol that would never fill me the way I needed to be filled. What better place in scripture to figure out what was happening, than in Jeremiah.
"This is what the LORD says:
Your wound is incurable, your injury beyond healing. There is no one to plead your cause, no remedy for your sore, no healing for you. All your allies (our idols) have forgotten you; they care nothing for you... Jeremiah 30:12-14
V. 17 But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds, declares the Lord.
I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving kindness. I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel. Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful" Jeremiah 31: 3-4
My joy that had been slowly deteriorating from my need to find worth in what other people thought was being restored by my God who loves with an everlasting love. My God who notices me. My God who loves me with a jealous love that will not stand for His beloved being enticed by other lovers.
So here I am, at the end of this fast. I am filled up. But I would be lying to you if I told you that I wasn't nervous about entering the world of social media again. What If my heart threatens to be unfaithful again? O Lord, Bind it. Now please hear me on this. Social media is not evil. It truly can be such a place to glorify the Lord, live in community and encourage those around us. I truly believe this. But in all things, we must not forget our first love. I must not forget the truth of where my hope and worth is found. In the words of Dumbledore, "it does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to LIVE." It's all great to dream and pray over what the Lord has for my life and this tiny space on the internet, and my tiny space on this earth. But I must not let that overwhelm my living. It must not overwhelm my day to day life of loving Jesus and loving others. If my social media use is a means to create an image of how I want to appear, then I am better off signing off forever. This thing of social media cannot be my Mirror of Erised. It will surely destroy me.
After all, His love is better than life, and my image is found in Him and what He is doing in my life. Right now. I am writing these words down to remember. So that when my idols threaten to take hold of my heart again (and I know they will), I will remember what the Lord did here. And for you, I pray that these words would be a healing balm to your battered heart. Sometimes the worst damage is done when we don't even realize it's happening. Dear friend, Let us take back our hearts from the idols that abuse us.
And for this space? I promise to continue to run after Jesus. Therefore I promise to always keep this thing called "social media" in check. Because Real life is worth it. Real Joy is worth it. Real love and real worth is...... worth it. Jesus' love and authority over my life is way better than any Mirror of Erised could ever offer me.