Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What We Look At (& How It Shapes Us)

There's an interesting article making the social network rounds, at least within my little community of connections. It's entitled "Your Children Want You!" and is written by blogger April Perry.

Her main point is that our children want us, not some facsimile of supermom we've dreamed up through our mesmerized meditations on what we see other moms "out there" doing -- other moms we don't know, but whose beautiful, crisp-photo-essay lives are spilled out for everyone to see on Pinterest, Facebook, magazines, and other "virtual" gathering places.

I agree it's a thoughtful and encouraging article, well-written and timely. What surprises me is that this hasn't been said before now, loud and clear. Perhaps it has been, and I've just missed it. Beyond the good, encouraging word of the article itself lurk some hard questions I think we could be asking ourselves, questions that really get at the heart of our spiritual lives.

Why do we compare ourselves to others?
Why do we constantly feel we fall short?
Why do we dream so hard about what we don't have?

(And if you're answering, "the power of sin and a broken world" for every question, I won't disagree with you...though how that plays out for each of us is unique as well as similar. I also think there can be such a thing as a "holy discontent" that can compel us to create, be, and do things to help change our the circumstances around us...but that's probably a topic for another post.)

Beyond the prognosis and recognition of our own brokenness come the pro-active questions. What can we do about this? How can we stop comparing ourselves to unknown, glossy standards of "good, best, better"? How do we root ourselves in our worth in God? How can we cultivate contentment and gratitude on a daily basis?

And the questions get harder...how does spending all the "virtual" time we spend, especially time looking at other people's lives (or the snippets they choose to share from their lives) affect us? Beyond spending more time in actual, face-to-face relationships, what pictures and words could we be looking at to counterbalance all of the "perfection" we often drool over?

And other interesting questions could be raised too. Why are we driven to look at the beautiful things other people create? Because one thing that online communities have certainly opened up to us is an increased awareness of the amazing creativity of other people, and the ways they are shaping their lives and the lives of their children and families. Those things do not have to lead us to despair over our own inadequacies. They can, in fact, be causes for celebration and thankfulness. How do we learn to appreciate and learn from those things we see while remaining our own unique creative shape? In a world that contains so much brokenness, suffering, poverty, and need, what place should beauty, and the creation of beauty in our lives, have?

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