When does a negative observation become whining? When does leaning on our brethren for comfort become burdening them with our problems? Is “venting” every once in a while an appropriate response to stress? I have no easy answers for such questions. If you do, please share. Perhaps asking yourself questions such as the following can…
The curator of a museum is responsible for the content of the museum’s displays. They acquire permanent additions, they arrange for temporary exhibits, they generally set it up so that the museum receives the maximum possible amount of positive attention. “That place is amazing!” would-be attendees say to one another. “We absolutely have to go there!”
The plumbing problems, the mounting debt, the personality flaws of the artists — those are not to be put on display. These negative traits of the museum are every bit as real, perhaps even more so, than the positive ones. But they stay hidden from the public if the curator has anything to say about it.
Social media has been described as a way of “curating” our lives. We put on display only those aspects that we wish to show. Generally that means all good news, all the time — pictures of our dinner, or of the family at the amusement park. That sort of thing. “My life is great! Don’t you wish you were me?” is the general idea. Or perhaps a bit of wisdom or humor we tracked down on the internet — which, presumably, prove that we ourselves are wise or humorous. Occasionally we may post a vague request for emotional support — “Can’t get into it now, but I need your prayers,” “Feeling especially glum today,” “New shoes, what do you think?”, etc. But let’s be honest; those tend very strongly to be more in the “begging for compliments” category and less in the “I am weak and I need help” category; after all, if we really needed help, we would actually talk about our problems.
Actually, “talk about our problems” is another example of the same phenomenon. Sometimes we can’t seem to talk about anything else. But I would venture to say, in at least 90 percent of these cases the “problems” in question are not our fault; they are topics of conversation mostly to generate pity or place blame. It’s the same principle, really — allowing people to see the part of our lives that we are willing to expose — and absolutely nothing else.
But that is not how we build relationships. That is how we build walls.
The Bible tells Christians, “confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another” (James 5:16). The prayers of righteous brethren “can accomplish much,” as the text goes on to read, because we have created real and lasting bonds. They know our weaknesses, so they can minister to us in our weaknesses. Hiding our weaknesses may make us feel secure in the short term, but what they really do is prohibit our spiritual family from doing its job — and hindering our own ability to grow and mature.
The curated life is all about appearances. We want to act like everything is wonderful — especially when it isn’t. The vulnerable life is all about realities. We are in constant need of assistance, and we want to make ourselves available to the ones most willing and able to offer it.
That is not to say you should take to Facebook and begin confessing every character flaw in front of the whole world. But perhaps privately admitting our frailties and weaknesses to a trusted brother or sister in Christ would not be the worst idea in the world.
When Paul said goodbye to the Ephesian elders in Miletus, he told them he knew he would never see their faces again (Acts 20:25). However, his dealings with the church at Ephesus were not entirely completed, according to 1 Timothy 1:3, If we believe Paul was guided by inspiration in Miletus, we have to take him at his word. That means the church at Ephesus during Paul’s third preaching tour was dramatically different from the one with which Timothy was working just six or seven years later.
We ship Kylie back to college this week. It’s sad on multiple levels. But it is part of the process of watching a young person grow up. On the whole, it would be much, much sadder if it didn’t happen. If I tell Tracie that enough times, maybe she will start to believe me.
I saw that a police department was warning its citizens recently about buglers that were operating in the neighborhood. That isn’t a typo. Or rather, it’s not my typo. Or maybe it’s not a typo at all. Maybe some crazy band students were running around neighborhoods playing Reveille at all hours of the night. But I doubt it.
Without trying to take sides in the gun vs. anti-gun argument, allow me to cautiously make the following observations: one, a gun tragedy is guaranteed to bring people out of the woodwork, quoting outrageously misleading statistics and claiming that all gun advocates are essentially guilty of murder; two, gun advocates will try to “put things into perspective” by saying the problem isn’t actually as gigantic as it is made out to be, and essentially come off like jerks who think a dozen or so dead children is not that big a deal. In short, everyone still believes what they already believed, they’re just louder about it.
I find facts a lot less argumentative than rhetoric, so let’s look at some facts.
A few more words about my experience with the (alleged) flock of eagles. Birds of prey do not typically flock. There is little reason. They do not need to fend off predators. They compete with one another over food sources. And while some bald eagles migrate short distances, those in Florida do not; that eliminates the need for the aerodynamic advantage enjoyed by ducks and geese.
And yet bald eagles are frequently seen in large numbers.