my so-called-insta-life

Pictures are stories captured in moments. (Or so that’s what my Instagram blurb says.)

It IS true. The shutter opens and closes for less than a second and depending on how fancy shmancy your device is, you can have a 40 picture burst in a mere 2.5 seconds.

Then you crop and chop and filter and frame– and VOILA- out comes the image we pass on about our lives to how many ever followers or friends we have.

It’s so simple. But is it? What you didn’t see are all the mistakes and outtakes, all the before filter blemishes and lighting issues, or more importantly the emotions that no emoticon could quite convey.

So here’s the lowdown: my beautiful picture of the beach was amidst a heart full of worry and turmoil. The cute one with my teenagers had a prelude of not-so-nice sibling spats and concluded with complaints about “how ugly I look in every picture”. The one with my hubby (where we look so in love after 22 years) was taken after a couple days of exhausted tension in which countless conversations seemed to fall on deaf ears for us both.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to bash on social media pics or the evils of selfies or the perfectly coifed and highly filtered shots we post. (I always find it strangely ironic when people complain about that through the conduit of social media!)

Rather, I am simply reminded that life is like the photos we share, snapshots into a larger world- a moment in time that passes as quickly as our shutter speed. And often, it is not all it appears to be.

Maybe you’re going through hell right now, waiting with baited breath for this season to be over. The shutter can’t close quickly enough on life as you know it.

Perhaps, the picture you posed for is a moment you wish could last forever, hoping by the image captured, you will be able to conjure this blissful memory for years to come.

Whatever the case, good or bad, the moment will pass soon enough. If you look longingly into the snapshot of someone else’s life, it may appear glamorous, exciting, perfect even, but it’s not. It really isn’t. Remember that you can never know the “before filter or effects” version of their picture. You see what they want you to. The pixels on the screen only tell a fraction the story.

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Let’s stop pretending that all those words are amazing, beautiful and stunning because they are not. In fact, some are downright ugly and painful. But some truly are magical and lovely, picture stories that will linger on for years to come.

Contrast This

This week, I wore the cloak of invisibility. But here’s the weird thing: I didn’t even know I had it on. Allow me to explain.

I was at coffee with a friend and in walks a mutual friend and his teenaged son. They stop and greet my friend by name and proceed to chat for the next five minutes. I sat and stared. INCREDULOUSLY. At first I think they don’t recognize me (I’m sans makeup). Then I look right into the eyes of the man talking and he avoids my gaze, as does his son.

They leave our table without ever even breathing a word to me. I was invisible. Not even good enough to make eye contact with or be greeted by name… I must confess I thought of some bad names for them after they left.

Contrast the following day. I meet up with a friend who is taking my youngest to a theme park for the day. While we wait for the others to arrive, I jokingly say I wish we had time for an espresso. Out comes her peculator and beans, and she’s apologizing that she doesn’t have her “regular” beans imported from Italy. She bids me sit down and rest my leg (still recovering from a recent surgery). Within minutes, we are sipping from dainty mugs and chatting about life.

There at her table, I find comfort. I find love. I find hospitality.

Then I mull over each scenario. In true metacognitive fashion, I rack my brain for answers to the first situation: maybe they didn’t recognize me, maybe they were having a bad day, or maybe I offended them at some point and they just can’t stand the sight of me. WHAT?! Stop it, I say to myself. Or maybe they are just rude, judgmental jerks that think too highly of themselves. Yep, I’m gonna go with that one.

In contrast, I feel hospitality with this other person. She exudes it from the very core of her being, a definitive kindness and empathizing love. She signs her texts to me “xo”. But is this just a personality thing, a temperament difference, or even a gender thing? NO, NO and NO.

It’s a perspective thing. Exhibit A lives life in a conservative, narrow-minded, (and I’m just going to use strong oxymoron here)- a Christian bigot kind of way. Exhibit B lives life in a big-hearted, broad thinking, Jesus kind of way. She embodies the definition of hospitality: the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.

Having had these experiences back to back, I want to, more than ever, exhibit the grace of Jesus. May it ooze from my pores, flow freely from my mouth and display itself at my table. May it be given in generous unvarying amounts to everyone- known and unknown.

And God help me forgive exhibit A.