True confession? I dressed my three-year-old in jeans that I pulled out of his laundry basket this morning and took him to church wearing them. (To be fair, he had only worn them for about an hour the day before, because #toddlers, but still.) We live five minutes (exactly five) from church and we are late almost every week. Everything about getting out of the house with a three-year-old and a three-month-old feels like chaos. Sometimes there is yelling, sometimes there are tears, and always there are incessant requests for snacks because car rides make toddlers hangry.
You will not see any of this on my Instagram page. What you will see are smiles, cute videos, and the best of the best from any given day. This is not in any way to be deceitful about our life, but I simply am not snapping pics in the midst of tantrums, diaper blowouts, or my own meltdowns about the clutter in our house. I am certainly not taking selfies with my kids in front of church with the caption, “The dream team is late for church again! #tooblessedtobestressed”.
The advent of social media has given us access to the best moments of the lives of people that we would not ordinarily even think about. As a result, the proverbial “everyone else” has become inflated in our imaginations. You know who I’m talking about, right? The “everyone else” who has cute home décor, the “everyone else” who travels to exotic places, the “everyone else” whose kids are so well behaved it seems unnatural, the “everyone else” who has drama free family gatherings, happy marriages, and who manages to look like a model while simultaneously raising three kids and cooking gourmet meals. Essentially, “everyone else” is an imaginary compilation of people (most of whom we barely know) who are living the life that we think we want or deserve.
Often, we know intellectually that “everyone else” has the same problems and struggles that we do, but our minds choose to selectively ignore that information. Instead, we tend to emotionally believe that other people have their lives figured out and that we are somehow lacking or falling behind. For me, the result of buying into this lie became a lack of openness and vulnerability and an increase in jealousy and bitterness. It was ugly and it caused me to build walls around myself and my emotions in an attempt to project the image that I was doing just fine, #thankyouverymuch.
The demystification of the proverbial “everyone else” happened for me as a result of friends who determined to live real, authentic lives around me. I have been fortunate to have friends like this both in college and in my adult life. Friends who committed to monthly girls’ nights, weekly accountability get-togethers, weekly dinners, to answering phones at 2am when life goes completely off the rails, email updates, and to constant prayer for one another. Because of these friends, I could know that I wasn’t alone – that I wasn’t the only one who struggled through the toddler years of parenting, the only one who fought with my spouse, or the only one who had dreams put on hold for a season. It became clear that the women I looked up to most in my life also had struggles, doubts and hard seasons, because life isn’t perfect for anyone this side of Heaven.
Jesus created us for community – for honest, day-in and day-out living life together in the trenches, community. When we live into this design for our hearts and lives, there is freedom. Freedom to be relationally honest not just with our closest friends but with other people in our lives as well, because we have the confidence to know that there are friends who love us even in our failures, and who celebrate us in our successes. This ultimately points us back to Jesus, because as our people love us with the love and grace of God, we are drawn closer to Him and, in turn, become more fully who He created us to be.
If you have a group of friends like this, do not give up meeting together. Get together for girls’ nights, together with your spouses, celebrate birthdays, and keep texting in that group chat. Be honest, vulnerable, and willing to laugh at yourself. If you do not yet have a group of friends like this, may I suggest that you take a chance and text a few women in your life to see if they want to grab dinner? And then do that the next month, and the next, and the next until it becomes something you all look forward to and would not dream of missing. Take the first step and see what happens! Perhaps a year from now you will all be on a girls’ weekend reminiscing about that first time you got together at Applebees. Let’s be intentional community builders in this age of digital highlight snaps. May we never forget the power of genuine fellowship and the freedom there is in living life with one another.
*Hi friends! We know life is busy, so stay tuned next week when we share our Top Five Tips for Building Community in a Busy World! We hope you will be encouraged!