Walking our Faith: My Instagram life | SummitDaily.com

Walking our Faith: My Instagram life

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson
Walking our Faith
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson

Last Sunday, I decided to take a Sabbath from social media. I lasted until 10 o’clock in the morning, and then I opened the Instagram app on my phone ostensibly to post a Bible verse, but of course I couldn’t help but do a little bit of scrolling. Instagram is my favorite source for knitting and sewing inspiration.

Despite being a 57-year-old woman who has lived or visited many parts of the world, I easily fall under the charm of lives I see on Instagram. I know how many pictures I take before choosing just the right one to post on my own account, as if each picture somehow reflects the implied perfection of my own life and represents me better than I can represent myself in person or in my words or actions.

I believe we all present this façade to one another. I recently had someone ask me what I do for a living, and after I explained, she said, “Wow, it must be nice. You have a good life.”

I was momentarily dumbfounded and wanted to say appearances are not always what they seem. Instead, I smiled and said, “Yes, I am blessed.” And I do feel blessed. I love my three part-time jobs, working at St. John’s, writing two columns for the Summit Daily News and writing books. And I love this beautiful community I call home.

But I did not tell her that none of my jobs provide health insurance or retirement benefits, that I rent rather than own the apartment where I live, that in our current real estate market, I might never be able to own a cabin in the woods close to town.

As a single woman nearing 60, I worry about growing old alone and about my inability to be chosen, no matter how pretty I try to look, or catch up, no matter how hard I work. And my greatest fear, what if this is as good as it gets? What if I bet on the wrong horse, when I bet on myself all those years ago?

I have friends on social media who see the latest sweater I’ve knit or the dress I’ve sewn, and they say, “You are so talented,” but they have no idea of the crushing insecurity and sense of failure I feel when I compare my accomplishments to other people my age.

In a sense, we all live Instagram lives, whether on social media or in real life. And that can leave us feeling isolated, unable to reach out and ask for help because we are so terribly afraid of letting go of the carefully crafted mask we present in our communities.

On Tuesday morning, I went to 8 a.m. mass at St. Mary’s and the Gospel reading was the familiar story about two sisters, Mary and Martha. Jesus has come to their home to teach. Mary sits at Jesus’ feet to listen while Martha hurries to serve everyone present. When Martha complains to Jesus, he answers: “Mary has made the better choice.”

We can become so busy trying to portray our lives as successful — as loving wives, exceptional mothers with successful children — we can become so wrapped up in comparing our homes to magazines, that we become like Martha running here and there trying to catch up.

I will never live up to the standards I set for myself or the shame I feel for my mistakes. And I’m not alone. We carefully adjust our facades, so our pain is not too evident.

I believe Jesus is calling us to be more like Mary, to stop comparing ourselves to others. I do it all the time. With a mixture of admiration and envy, I look at the progress of other writers, knitters, home cooks, and sewists. And in my mind, I never measure up to their success.

Maybe God won’t answer my prayers in the way I’d hoped. Perhaps my dreams are not his plans. Perhaps God is asking me to put down my phone and take up my Bible and find a quiet place to pray, focus on the love of Jesus, on how I can be of service in my community, because those are better ingredients for a meaningful life. Perhaps God will heal my disappointment in lost dreams. Perhaps God will heal my shame. Perhaps God’s timing is not my timing.

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at suzanne@suzanneelizabeths.com.

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