It’s cliche, but I gave up posting on social media for Lent. Blogging and “liking” things was permitted, but the Facebooking, tweeting, and Instagramming was out. I’d still consume and see what was happening, but I hit pause on posting. And I wasn’t going to tell people about it while I did it. One, I didn’t want to be all “look at me and my ‘holy’ Lenten disciplines.” I wanted to keep it on the down-low between God and I. Two, if I failed, I didn’t want it to be a big public thing.
Prior to the fast, I felt fractured: one version of me on one platform, another elsewhere, like I’m a teenager trying out different identities for size. In part, I use platforms for different reasons: Twitter for learning from a range of diverse voices, Facebook for friends, Instagram for family and crochet.
The end result of competing agenda was a fractured version of myself afraid of my complexity and uncomfortable in my own skin. I thought of myself as shameful as though geeking out over crochet, books, Kdramas, food, or theology was something to lower my eyes over.
What if people think I’m bananas for posting about my crochet projects? What if people think I’m a heretic for what I find helpful on Twitter? What if I’m not smart enough? What if I talk about food too much? What if I’m too lovey-dovey about how much fun I have with my husband?
All those questions spiraled into a me-centric version of the universe. Living life in hopes of approval from a generic public is a pretty shallow way to live. It’s a way of existence that reduces everybody else in the world to minor blips in the major plot of my life.
So, I hit pause on posting.
The first couple of weeks were easy. When I’d want to post something, I just added it to a list of moments I wanted to remember.
- While shopping for a formal dress for a local masquerade ball, I learned the Minnetonka Goodwill is an excellent first stop for browsing. If you’re between a size 5 and 10 (which I am not), Unique is okay. (To be honest though, I ended up with a $30 dress on clearance from JC Penney.)
- For women with long hair and glasses who do public speaking, is there a magic trick for hair styling so that your hair doesn’t tangle in the mic hanging from your ear? I feel like this is a challenge every time I preach, and it leads to ponytails by our second service (and making me feel like less of an adult). Also, Google did not help me with this problem, so maybe it is unique to me.
- Why is it that black teas taste so different from each other, but green teas, despite different flavorings whether mint or jasmine or peach, always essentially taste like green tea?
- I touched my toes in a seated forward fold for the first time in my entire life. In spite of increased ability to reach my toes, why is it that wrangling the zipper on the back of a dress gets harder each year?
- In spite of my personal pledges to accept my aging body gracefully and gratefully, I had a moment of epic panic on discovering a stray gray hair, and again when I realize gray hairs have settled into one of my eyebrows. What is this new thing?
- Getting together for cheese and wine with my college roommates. I love these women, and I’m glad we’re still friends all these years later.
- Receiving the Eucharist from the pastor at an Ash Wednesday service, I realized something: for me, there’s a measurable difference between looking in someone’s eyes while receiving the bread and cup versus taking it from a tray. The nature of the gift overwhelms me when I look in someone’s eyes and hear the words, “The body of Christ. Broken for you.” The gift washes over me when I receive it instead of grasp for it.
- I laughed so hard when I came across this little quote and felt a tiny bit better about my dresser drawers full of yarns: “People collect all sorts of things. Why shouldn’t you collect yarn?”
- I pulled out my wedding dress and tried it on for the first time in nearly 12 years.
But after the honeymoon period — 14 days — the fast started to burn. The 40 days of Lent is a challenge to habits — not just a brief interruption in status quo. The hunger for the online connection kicked in. I felt my neediness like ants crawling all over my skin.
And so I found myself reaching out in real life to people more often, whether checking in with friends or sending photos to my dad. Instead of posting publicly on a sad post or to say Happy Birthday, I’d reach out privately via e-mail or phone or text. I stared down my motivations and asked critical questions.
I savored moments internally instead of via public media. I felt compelled to snap photos as a way to hold on to gratitude. The beauty of the lights in the Arboretum gardens. Photos of J and I dolled up for a masquerade ball. Discovering a crochet cross bookmark my mother made. Adventures with J at the Jackson Street Roundhouse and Rose Street Patisserie. The hilarious April Fools cupcakes J brought home. Heading to Bauhaus Brew Labs for dinner from Hibachi Daruma”s food truck. Making homemade pho. Drinking sangria, snacking on sweet potato fries, and playing Hearts (and Spades) over at Spitz in North Mpls with J, my sister and Dad.
And on anxiety ridden days, I found myself glancing back at those same images remembering simple moments and the people who shared them with me.
It’s okay to be me. I like what I like, and inasmuch as it doesn’t harm anyone else, that’s something to celebrate. Worrying over whether someone’s looking down his nose at me steals the gratitude, joy and fun. I don’t need to apologize for the mere fact of existing, and neither does anyone else.
You, too, are someone worth celebrating. Amidst the messes and the struggles, there’s profound beauty and capacity for love in you. Lean into it. You don’t need to crawl through life on your belly feeling embarrassed about who you are. Because who you are at the end of the day is this: Beloved.
I carry insecurity with me like a 50 lb sack of rocks on my shoulders. I try to not to talk about it, because I’m embarrassed about it. Also, I know it’s unhealthy, irrational, and nothing anybody says is going to make those feelings go away. They’re mine, and they can’t be blamed on anyone else.
I took off the blinders on the way insecurity was hobbling my life. Can’t do this — not good enough. Can’t say that — what if people say mean things to me for it? Can’t be a for-reals photographer because not everything is perfect straight out of the gate.
I cheated myself of the joy of learning. As I’ve stepped up on gear and software for photography, I realized I have some great basics. I’m a good photographer, not the best ever photographer. What I can do: choose to learn instead of bemoaning that I don’t live up to my ideals quite yet.
I choose to embrace process over perfect.
And in the journey, I learn I might actually be more than I actually give myself credit. In trying new things and taking risks, I surprise myself. Perhaps, more staggeringly, as I lean into faith, Jesus overwhelms me, too.
I learned I am beloved. Strengths, flaws and all. There’s welcome and grace for me with those who matter most. It’s enough for today. And even though I’d prefer to hoard security for tomorrow, today is good enough. Today, right now, is all we really hold anyway.
Enough becomes a place of deep gratitude and a space to learn faith. Or, at least, a place to recognize the tiny fissures in my faith. Simplicity forces me to reckon with the lies threatening to embarrass and shame me into hiding.
I still have a big jerk of an inner critic, a voice which says awful, mean things about me at a steady chirp.
I just move forward anyway, even if it’s full of hiccups and stops and restarts. I choose to live, instead of hide — even if it is a nerve-wracking, covered in goosebumps feeling every single time.
As Jonathan Martin spoke of in Prototype, somehow I begin to hear the love which calls me by name and into abundant life, “a song of unrestrained joy, a song of hope and belonging. A song that calls [me] into the future.”
Seeing the mercy poured out for me opens my heart for others, too. When I’m less concerned about defending myself, when I can rest in the knowledge that I’m loved no matter what, I find a deeper capacity for grace for other people.
When I accept the bad with the good in me, I learn to take the good with the bad in others, too. Learning to love who I am frees me to love others for who they are (and not just when they behave conveniently for me).
What helps us see we’re not as alone as we thought we were? What helps us know we can leap, and that even if we fall, we will find our way back up again?
What if we could trust that we are loved? What if we could stop trying to test or prove it? What if we could rest in it instead?
And what if we could love others this way, too?