As I write this, it is Sunday afternoon and my eyelids feel as though they weigh about 150 pounds each. My eyes are dry, red, and tired, and as I stare at my computer screen my internal dialogue is a constant battle between keeping my commitments (this blog post, some grocery shopping and my ever mounting pile of laundry) and simply taking a nap that will hopefully roll into bedtime and then into tomorrow morning. With full-time work and school, I have a very full week between Monday and Saturday, which is why how I spend my Sunday afternoons are crucial to the week ahead. Even though this chaotic schedule is only for an appointed time and will soon be at an end, I find myself echoing the words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 1, “What do people gain from all their labours at which they toil under the sun?”
It is very easy for me to get caught up in the overwhelming busyness of how my life is going. Sometimes it’s all I see. An endless collection of long hours and short days stretched out on the horizon, my never ending schedule of clients and exams punctuated by my one afternoon off on a week. In the midst of this very unbalanced life, things I once enjoyed have fallen by the wayside: dinner dates with friends, small group, hiking, visiting the aquarium. Often the only way for me to connect with friends and the things that bring me joy has been the few minutes I have in my day to stalk Facebook and scroll Instagram.
While I understand the dangers of looking at other people’s lives through the lens of social media and the undue pressure we as Christians put on ourselves to keep our social media habits in check, sometimes it has been the only way of connecting with and celebrating those I deeply cherish. Social media has often been a porthole to the world outside of my prison of haircuts and haircolour. I have appreciated it and been tremendously grateful for it.
Instagram provides small snapshots of the broad world in which God is working, allowing us to trace faint lines of His redemption and hear whispers of His majesty and glory.
Instagram is one of my favourite social media platforms. I’m a visual person, which is probably why I enjoy this photo-based platform. It allows me to access large amounts of information very quickly; it is a real-time look into the lives of my friends and family. It is simple, streamlined and allows its content to be shared easily without the bells and whistles that sometimes distract. Generally, my Instagram feed is a happy place, void of political messages, hateful comments, passive-aggressive status updates and the ever growing phenomenon of “vaguebooking”. I follow friends, family, photographers (Peter Lik will wow you), hairdressers, puppies, and farm animals (Esther the Wonder Pig will brighten your day and steal your heart). All of these things bring me joy and re-orient my tired heart back to inspiration, expectation and gratitude.
It’s easy to think that what lies in front of us is all that life has to offer. I am not the only person who feels this way. It feels as though with every passing weekday our heads get heavier and our vision tunnels until all we see is the drudgery of everyday life. For me, it is triangular graduation and layer placement foils (insert defeated sigh here), for you it could be screaming, teething children, or papers on systematic theology, or even dealing with the grittiness of addiction in a client or a loved one. But the beauty of social media is that it can remind us that there can be more to our rhythms than just slogging through.
Looking at a photo of a sunset reminds me that God is still at work even when I can’t see Him. It reminds me that His work is bigger and more beautiful than the task in front of me. Looking at photos of my friend’s babies growing up reassures me that God is delivering on promises made long ago and that He still cherishes life and delights in us. Looking at photos of farm animals and those who have sought to heal and rehabilitate them reminds me that God is constantly redeeming this world and how His plans for us include peace and community. Instagram reminds me that I am small, that my problems are small, and that my anxieties are small in the face of who God is and how He is weaving incredible stories though all of us. It reminds me of a few chapters in the book of Job when God asks Job where he was and what he was doing when He created the earth, set the stars in the sky and unleashed the power of the sea.
Instagram has helped me remember to lift my head from the daily grind of my work week and to expect that God is working in me and through me. It has reminded me that there is freedom in my busyness because God delights to see me do something I love and dances with joy when His kingdom is proclaimed in the way I interact with colleagues and clients. I am reminded to be grateful when I can see beyond the endless appointments and long work days. Instagram provides small snapshots of the broad world in which God is working, allowing us to trace faint lines of His redemption and hear whispers of His majesty and glory. It can remind us that the world does not rely solely on us and our efforts. It can encourage us to seek out His beauty and to slow down just a little to enjoy the bursts of light and hope in the middle of our constant running and playing catch up.