I have a vivid memory as a child. Not so much of a particular moment, just a recollection. We used those flypaper traps to keep the houseflies under control. You know, the thin, yellow strip of sticky paper that unrolls from its canister while the lid acts as a weight to straighten it out... I remember thinking, "Well, that's harmless. How is that ever going to capture a fly?" Sure enough. The next day it was full of them.
That had me scratching my 10-year old head. Do they like the color yellow? Is it simply by chance? Why would the fly choose to land on that weird, spiral object hanging from the garage door rack?
I remember one my dad placed in the shed and it stayed there all year! It was nasty, really. What was once a harmless looking trap had transformed into a housefly cemetery. Dust, dirt and grass clippings covered the space between the fixated bug carcasses (yuck). It wasn't even sticky anymore. It had lost its appeal for new flies, but the damage had been done. Remembering the eeriness of that hanging death trap made me curious now as an adult. I found out that the appeal has nothing to do with the bright yellow color nor the spiraled shape. It most definitely isn't left to chance either. Instead, the flies are lured to their sticky death by sweetness.
Wouldn't you know it. To be fooled to think you're getting something life-giving only to find it's what kills you.
I was about 12 years old when the internet was becoming legitimate. "Legitimate" for a 12-year old, that is. I was mesmerized by chat rooms. The thrill of communicating with someone I had never met and who lived across the globe! My favorite thing to do was to make other people think I was someone else. I would log-in to these chat rooms and tell the public feed to watch out for "TCbigglesworth2000" (or some other stupid name) because "it's actually Tom Cruise!" When they questioned me, I would feed them some line, "He's doing research for his next film! Wants to see how preteens feel about politics!" Then, I would proceed to log out of the chat and log back in 30-minutes later as...you guessed it: TCbigglesworth2000.
I pretended to be Tom Cruise, who was pretending to NOT be Tom Cruise! It was loads of fun for my underdeveloped brain! Hours, I would spend tricking these unexpecting strangers. They would gladly answer my loosely-based political questions, tell me all of their ideas for movies, ask if they could get my autograph (uh..how?), and my favorite was when they told me they KNEW I was Tom Cruise. I just imagine them telling all their friends at school, "Guys. Guess who talked to me on AOL Instant Messenger last night." Classic.
I've realized though that throughout my formative years, I was exposed to the necessity to perform. To be in front of an audience. It wasn't anything bad or wrong from my parents, but it was more of an expectation I developed in myself. This drive to produce. To even make my innermost thoughts become a part of something that others would engage with. To ensure that each THING was on record. I always prepared what I did to entertain those who would encounter it. As a preteen, it was exciting to me. It wasn't attention I wanted, but the recognition... that's different. I would wake up from the all-to-familiar adolescent numbness whenever there was an crowd to be entertained. And the truth is, I wasn't all that extroverted. I have often called myself an introverted-extrovert. This was a learned skill.
See, I have this switch. I believe many of us have it. When flipped, I become what I'm supposed to be for the moment. When it's flipped back, I'm me again, recovering from being "on". I have watched myself over the years flip this switch hundreds, if not thousands of times - high school, church, family functions, old friends, new friends, funerals, interviews, at the workplace. I've grown to suspect that this switch isn't normal. It doesn't show up in Genesis that "God then hardwired the switch into Adam." It has to be something we have created for ourselves. "Time to be on," we say.
We've created this type of faux-reality of playing the roles we want or need to play when we want or need to play them. More than that, we have aligned our "on" and "off" to MORE expectations. Because, if you're not "off" at the fanciest hotel in Grand Cayman, then you're not truly "off". We compare each other's achievements and vacations, our social media presence, even our family dynamics and personal expressions. In reality, we never turn off the switch... we are now constantly performing and making sure we are doing life in the best way. Ensuring that everyone is a part of everything we do, see, touch, taste and feel. We show everyone our timelines, all while we hope they never see our hearts.
Recognition isn't a bad thing. Production isn't a bad thing either. Socialization is not a bad thing. Entertainment, performance, work – they're all good things. But the moment they enslave us is the moment the sweetness becomes deadly.
"'All things are lawful for me,' but not all things are helpful. 'All things are lawful for me,' but I will not be dominated by anything." (Corinthians 6:12)
The world is suffering - addicted to things we think are life-giving. All the while, we are killing ourselves with fear and pride. Think of the last time you engaged in a conversation with a stranger who wasn't serving you or selling you something. How often does entertainment involve an electronic device? When did you last have deep discussion with just one person without having to pay for it?
Stop pretending to be something you're not. We aren't defined by what we do. Our appraisal value doesn't increase by having a larger capacity to handle more and more. Remember that God isn't judging us based off our performance. God is the one looking at your heart. There's no switch involved - it's you He sees. He loves you despite the mess ups, despite the weak resumé, and regardless of if you're Tom Cruise or someone pretending to be him.
His love doesn't turn on and off. If we could just take a moment to see that each morning - before the day starts, the agenda fills up, or we get behind a slow driver or our kids overwhelm us or our jobs become our temporary idols... don't let yourself be lured by the sweetness of this world. We were not created to be dominated.
FB: Nick Stohler
Hey, HighPoint Church! Interested in writing?