When asked which author he would choose to write his life’s story, author and activist Wendell Berry answered: “A horrible thought. Nobody. As the only person who ever has lived my life, I know that most of it can never be documented, is beyond writing and beyond words.”
In 2015, Essena O’Neill dropped out of social media. After building a popular persona on Instagram (700,000 followers) and YouTube (260,000 subscribers), she wrote: “I spent five years wishing I was this perfect person online and I spent three years every day working really hard at it.” She went on to say that at age 19 she realized her aspirations were misguided, stating, “I think the reality is quite sad.” So Essena left social media behind. One reason? She wanted to be a better role model for her 14-year-old sister who had also been trying to find meaning and identity in projecting a perfect image.
Australian native Nick Vujicic understands a magnificent truth: We do not find our value in our capabilities. Born without arms or legs, Nick has learned not merely to cope with his challenges, but to permit God to use them for unimaginable good. He says, “God has given me the strength to surmount what others might call impossible.” As Nick likes to say, “God can use a life without limbs to show the world how to live a life without limits.”
A friend who worked for a Christian organization was known for his perfectionistic work habits. One day as he was finishing some work on a backhoe, a large piece of excavating equipment, he began preparing to paint its large metal bucket. This was an unnecessary part of the job, as the fresh paint would scrape off as soon as the backhoe began digging into rocky soil. As my friend raised his spray gun for the first coat, his boss called to him, “Don’t paint the bucket!”
Enjoying our evening out, we waited for our waitress to come to our table. When she approached, her cheerful demeanor brought an immediate connection, even though we had just met her. However, as our dinner progressed, my husband and I picked up on the self-deprecating comments interjected in her words each time she checked on us. Boldly, we spoke about God’s beauty in her and asked to pray with her. I was surprised the next morning to find a friend request from her on my Facebook page. Neither my husband nor I had told her our names or the name of the church where we serve.
It seems to me that there are three primary things in life that make people feel good about themselves: wealth, good looks, and knowledge. With this trio a person can feel significant (because people will flock to you for good and bad reasons) and secure (because you think you have some semblance of control).
It’s the kind of photo that compels even tough guys to use words like adorable and precious. And many women? They’ll say “Awwwww” in one long, heartrending syllable while clutching at their hearts and contorting their faces into maudlin expressions.
One of the most famous and influential preachers of the gospel in US history was D. L. Moody. The preacher, who lived in the 19th century, also founded Moody Bible Institute and began publishing Christian books—scarce at the time. Both MBI and Moody Publishers continue to function more than a century after his death. Surely such a renowned believer in Jesus was highly trained and educated! But that doesn’t describe Moody. He had very little education and worked as a humble shoe salesman for years before his conversion.
We anticipated an amusing evening at church. Whether it would be the antics of our own kids or someone else’s, we were confident the kid-driven event would elicit laughter. Sure enough, laughter rang out, but my husband and I sat stunned and tried to hide our dismay. What had appeared to others as a funny comment had actually been a joke at my husband’s expense. Though we had felt tension with the couple in charge of the program, the episode exposed the depth of the chasm.
Seemingly unaware of leaflets littering the sidewalk and placards dotting the corners of the intersection, the pedestrians around me continued their normal pace of life on this national election weekend. As a foreigner, I saw a distinct similarity between the smiling faces of the candidates staring from their two-dimensional advertisements and those from my home country. All promised change and hope.
Looking back, some of the most stretching moments in my life came when I was asked to do something new—something I had never done before. Perhaps you can relate to being asked to do something way out of your comfort zone!
If you imagine that enemies captured you and forced you to change your diet, your college major, and your name, which one would hurt the most? Daniel accepted his new name, Belteshazzar, even though it invoked a pagan god. He accepted his new education “in the language and literature of Babylon,” even though it meant he had to study pagan creation myths (Daniel 1:4).
Beauty isn’t skin deep—not for the believer or for those who don’t know Jesus. A movement to see beauty in women of all shapes and sizes and the call to reject the false standards of entertainment and advertising continues to grow. From marketing campaigns using larger-sized models to local groups teaching young girls to be confident without wearing makeup, the message is clear: You are beautiful and you are powerful . . . simply by being you.
For all the good Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can bring to our lives, including allowing us to keep in touch with family and friends, these social media sites can also be stumbling blocks. One of my friends has started limiting the amount of time she spends on social media because she found herself becoming increasingly consumed with the lives of her online friends. Yep, she struggles with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram nosiness. But she’s not the only one.
If the book of Judges were turned into a miniseries, we wouldn’t permit young children to view it. The book shows life in early Israel as violent, ugly, and self-serving. Villains abounded. One such bad guy was Abimelech, the son of the heroic Gideon (see Judges 9:1-5,50-56). Spoiler alert: He killed all his brothers except one and usurped power for himself. He also met an interesting demise.