I shared an image on Instagram which filled me with delight. At the same time it made me cry a little too. I felt uneasy about something. I couldn’t help but wonder what my photo story invoked in the hearts and minds of others. I thought of the mom or dad who is comparing themself right now.
My delight may not be their reality. Truth be told, my delight is mixed with grief and pain too. It goes far beyond a momentary glimpse of life because I know the whole picture. Those who saw what I shared don’t share in what I know.
This is the way of life. We see bits and pieces and think we know the whole story but we don’t.
We say it’s social media, but really it’s more isn’t it? Before the days of sharing snippets online we were still a people who’d meet each other with, “I’m fine, how are you?”
New friendships take time to develop the grit required to make it long lasting and deeply rooted. We want it, but fumble our way through as we forge a safe place for intimate revelations. Sometimes we hold back in fear, and sometimes we spill out too much too fast because the reality of everything is too much to bear alone.
Social media enhances our trepidation to share honestly or the inclination to share too much. There’s a balance we don’t know how to find and all along we’re comparing our whole lives to the synopsis of another’s.
There’s always more to the picture.
My photo displayed a lovely arrangement of flowers which came to my door for Valentine’s Day. They were from my 25 year old son and the note said, “For my wonderful mother who taught me how to love.”
One sentiment caught in a flash says so much. Yet every pixel that came together tells a different story for each person who sees it and reads the words captioned there. We have personalized filters.
Anyone may may look and say, “That’s not my son. He’s (not a part of my life, never thinking of me, not here anymore, was never born). They may sigh and continue, “But I wish it was.”
Behind all of our photos there’s a life time of stories. Heart aches, pains, ups and downs. Moments to be cherished and moments we wish we could revoke.
What’s Not Seen
In my image what’s not seen were the five years I spent as a single mom when he was young, abandoned by his father before I knew I was pregnant. Or how my son and I used to joke about him being the man of the house and how a man should treat a woman. If a man had been in my life, I wouldn’t have thought to teach him these concepts.
What’s not seen were the many years my son wondered why his friends were getting married and having children, but he thought he might be a bachelor for life. He was “always a best man, never the groomsman” and now he’s found a girl he’s head over heels for.
What’s not seen, and this is the really hard part, is the heart ache I feel from being separated from my spouse. Again. Or how I live daily wondering if this time will really be the end. Or how we can’t seem to fix it and God’s asked me to do some really hard things which can easily be misunderstood. I don't understand it all either.
What's not seen is how I’m afraid I’m losing friends as a result. Or how my church has tried to help and others have loved me well, yet I often feel a kind of loneliness because no one can walk this journey for me and the only one who can truly lead is God the father, son, and Holy Spirit.
What no one sees is the thoughts we think, the feelings we feel, or the motivations of our hearts. Not one human, not even ourselves, knows how all the intricate pieces of our lives which intertwine as part of a story much larger than we can fathom.
Only God knows the whole of it.
Every day our trust is tested. Every day we have to decide if we will choose to make it on our own or make it with God. We have our own journeys to take, but we look to the journey of another and think we want to walk theirs instead.
There’s always more to the picture.
Trust the One Who Sees
The stories of our lives are always far more than what we share through social media, or through quick smiles, or the false facades we all attempt to portray to some degree. None of these will ever tell the whole of it. Why do we expect they will? Why do we want them to? Where’s room for mystery and trusting a God who knows all, sees all, and always has what we need?
Even our own recollections of the lives we’ve lived never tell the whole story. Our memory fades and rearranges. Emotions tied up in moments can get distorted over time. We are fallen beings with broken tales desperately in need of more.
No matter what we think we know about ourselves or others, there is always more to be known. Not by us though. We don’t need to know it all. As much as we look for answers and want to fix every imperfect thing, we can't.
We must trust the God who knows. The one who saw it all just as it happened and who has a plan to redeem and restore. Maybe our stories won’t have the endings we want this side of heaven, but we can always be certain God is working the reconciliation of all things to himself.
Live Well In Your Story
We each have our own story. Our own lives to live.
I’m passion about cultivating a life well-lived, no matter what. Not because I know how to do it perfectly, goodness no. Not because I’ve figured out a way to feel well all the time, far from it. I don't expect it in a broken world such as ours.
A life well-lived is not one void of hardships or deep emotion. It never denies struggles, but it always remembers the one who is with us in our struggles. It remembers He is the one we live for and the one who lives in us.
A life well-lived remembers we don't see the whole story. We trust in a God who does.
A life well-lived is about living for God, by God, and in Him. He sees, he knows, he delivers, and he makes it whole. It's about cultivating the things which stir our hearts closer to him and remind us to draw from his well of living water.
What we can’t see now is that there is more. Our story is not over, it is in progress. We won’t give up on pursuing the God who stirs our faith because we will remember this:
Only God sees the whole picture.