There is so much more to our lives than we show. The look we give to the outside world is usually the cool stuff. "Look, I'm on vacation!" "See that? I'm doing something you're not doing!" "Listen! I'm smiling at the camera I'm holding at the end of my arm!” If you're aware of how all these images come across, maybe post a sad, pensive image of how you “don't feel today”. People who follow you need to know that you are real and that your life has its ups and downs. Right? Life is not all roses and holidays and you want people to identify with you. The truth is, if you look at most social media, you only get a scrapbook of their lives. You only see what people did and maybe when they did it. The image you see on her feed about dinner with a friend is just that: dinner with a friend. What we infer from this image or any of the photos is important. In this climate, where you eat matters.
Was it a burger at home? Did it look great? Are you a foodie and make incredible dishes? Was the burger at In N Out? Was it a monster burger or just a regular one? Maybe the picture reminded you of a time when you had In N Out. Maybe it was a gourmet burger at a fancy steakhouse. The photo can make you jealous and full of envy (that's how I feel EVERY time someone posts a picture of a burger). The picture gives us very little data. It doesn't tell the story around it. did you feel good Did you fight with your children? what kind of day did you have How does the work? Our brain automatically tries to fill in the blanks, and there are many. A picture may say more than a thousand words, but it cannot tell the whole story.
We are so much more than snapshots and pictures. We embody long and complicated stories. These are stories from our lives, the lives of those we love and our near and far relatives. Our stories are but the final chapter in a long history of mankind leading to you, even as you read this, your story is being made.
That's one of the reasons I love tattoos. Do not get me wrong; I'm not stocked up
tattoos. Actually, I don't even have one, but I think they're fantastic. Why? Because they say something about the person. They offer a glimpse of what they are and hopefully hold deep meaning for whoever wears them.
Recently, while queuing at the supermarket, I saw an incredible tattoo. It was a black and white tattoo of an angel carrying someone. It was classic and stunning. It looked like it was carved out of marble. At the bottom of the picture was a date which led me to believe it was some kind of memorial. The guy with the tattoo looked a little like what you can imagine. This tattoo was just one of many that covered much of his arm. Ink wrapped around his other arm and a large beard poked out of his face. He was a big guy and can be considered intimidating. Undaunted, I told the guy how great I think his tattoo is. He thanked me and enthusiastically told me about the local artist who did it and where he works. It seems that every time I ask about a tattoo, people tell me where the shop is. Maybe you tattoo guys can tell me what this is about. Curious. foreshadowing? Anyway, what happened next was unbelievable. He told me it was for his son who died nine years ago. His vulnerability surprised me. Here we are at the cash register having a pretty profound moment. He followed up and shared how his son carelessly died by making a simple mistake. This man didn't appear to be my age and it was heartbreaking. My eyes filled with tears as I thought about the pain he must be in and how I would feel if my son died so young. He went on to tell me that he's been having trouble remembering his boy lately. He knew God had a plan, but the memories come at odd times, waking him up or disrupting his day. Shouldn't he be past that long ago? His sadness was palpable. I expressed my sympathy and told him that grief is so strange; we never know when it will show up. "Are you going to talk to anyone about this?" I asked. He said no. my heart broke He bore this burden alone and obviously had to share it. I turned to the cashier and asked for a piece of paper and a pen to write with. I quickly wrote down my phone number, my name and mentioned that I was a priest. I looked him in the eye and told him I had coffee, beer or whatever with me. If he ever wants to talk, call me. And just like that, two tall, bearded men stand in line at a grocery store, connected by a story.
But he wasn't just a guy in the supermarket. He wasn't just a snapshot, and neither was his tattoo. He was and is a walking story. It is often quoted but important: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." (Rev. Dr John Watson DD - pseudonym Ian Maclaren) His battle revolves in part over the death of his son . His journey, his story is not over yet. It runs while I type and you read.
Maybe he never gets in touch with me. We may never see each other again, but for one brief and important moment, our stories converged. This crossing of paths is the stuff of life. We do not converge based on images, social media, or any number of images. We connect because our stories connect. I don't have a tattoo but I like art. I have a son. We shop at the same store (at least for the day) and that was enough for our stories to converge.
Every person you know or come into contact with has a story. You are on a journey and we have a role to play. Will it be her champion? Will it be her encourager? Will it be the antagonist or his mentor? There is no way of knowing what role we will play, but one thing IS for sure. The more we share our stories, the more space we make for others to share theirs. When people share their stories, not just their holiday snaps, selfies, or delicious hamburgers, convergence occurs. When people come together, even for a short time, humanity is restored and beauty increases. We may even learn to be polite to one another.
How would you share your story with someone? What about the narrative you tell yourself? This particular story is crucial. are you the hero Are you the protagonist or the antagonist? You are more than an image. You are a character on a journey that is not defined solely by what happened. You are defined by how you react and how you will react. Take some time today to share your story with your child, spouse, or friend. Maybe you could listen to theirs. Who knows what could happen. The thousand words that a picture says could lead to a small approximation. And that's just as well.
PS My friendVicky McDermitt led our weekly prayer timeMusic in the service of the word ministries.Vicki is an incredible singer, but more than that, she's a great person and storyteller. She weaves a story into every jazz performance. In addition, she helps support Belarus through her tour and concerts. Her devotional addressed the story and how important it is, which led to this blog post. Kudos to you, Vic.