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Thou Shalt Not...But Probably Do Anyway

“And there we all were, as invisible as you could wish to see.”

C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Chronicles of Narnia, #3)

We are so involved with each other these days, but not involved. We know all there is to know from every social media, site sharing, look- but not too hard way we present ourselves. Perfect pictures of perfect moments with perfect people in perfect settings. Total crap on a cracker! Now, I’m not saying some of these moments aren’t special or beautiful, momentous or joyous. But, they all can’t be caught in perfect lighting with the flawless smiles and angles. One of my biggest flaws is I covet like it’s going out of style. I know this! I work hard not to do it, but DADGUM! Facebook makes it super easy! (Side note: dadgum is my favorite southern exclamation ever!)

Of course everyone wants to put their best foot forward and all that jazz, but are you truly being honest and authentic? How does one go about doing that while not editing out the details that are uniquely and wonderfully you? I’d like to know! How does one get their kids to look so neat and tidy? How come they are always on vacation? Why is everyone so fit and well dressed with perfect hair and makeup? That perfectly clean, well furnished, Pinterest worthy home. How do you maintain all of this?! How do they afford all of this? Where does all the time come from? Why can’t I ever seem to be able to do 1% of it? The truth is because it’s not real! Well, yes, it is real but not 100% real. You only see that little sliver of what someone wants you to see and your deceitful mind and heart fill in the rest.

We are several generations into fictitious fantasy world thought processes thanks to TV, movies, social media, lifestyles. I had a very long and confusing conversation with a young woman who dreamed of having a life like the Cosby Show. She wanted to be well educated with a great job, married to a mirror image of herself in male form with the kids and the beautiful home. She thought that if she could just find that, her life would be amazing. She became upset when I pointed out that her life’s plan was based on a fictional TV family. That they weren’t real. I was caught out when I had the thought of this “silly girl” with her “silly fantasy” until I realized I do it too…just not with TV families. I look at others around me and envy their “ease” or “luck” with life. I don’t take into account what they may be privately struggling with or what was sacrificed in order to achieve that success.

There is a beautiful woman that I admired and envied for so long! Our children are friends. She seems to do all the things, while wearing all the right things, in the right places, with the right people…you know, that picture of perfect that I want so badly for myself. She lives where I live. We go to the same church. Why can’t I achieve even a smidgen of that?! Because I am not her! God has made me for a different purpose. He has placed us together to be friends…not adversaries. (Although she had no idea I was adversarial in my relationship). The thing is her child and mine are so similar. They were best friends for a long while. They are incredibly intelligent, outgoing, and wild! My child veered down a very long and dark path and while her similarly natured child flourished and succeeded. How did she do it? How did she love hers enough to create this success story and I failed? It was freaking hard to not seethe at the unfairness. The agony of seeing that beautiful child of hers doing all the things I prayed and hoped my beautiful child would do too was more than I could bear. I was so angry that the devil didn’t win her child over like he did mine. It hurt to watch my dreams come true for someone else. Even writing this now is bitter and makes me feel small, mean and ugly. The bottom line is that God has given free will.

With a storm raging in my life that was born of some very tumultuous teenage rebellion and choice, I chose to roll with the easy emotions. I twisted and turned and raged. I was so knotted up in my own fury and defeat I began to hate everyone. No one knew. I went to work. I went to church. I smiled and chatted. I sang and prayed. I cooked and cleaned. I made the picture pretty, even though it was anything but. My anxiety ran amuck. To the point that I was literally feeling like I was turning inside out. I wanted out of my skin, my body, my life. One day it got to the point that I just ran. Literally, down the hill as hard and as fast as I could go. Total Forest Gump moment. I know how he felt standing on that porch watching and waiting for someone who was not choosing what he was choosing. More than anything I wanted to make something make sense. I wanted not to be a failure as a mother. I wanted to not lose my child in the way I was losing them.

Facing the very real fear that their choices might take them out of this world and there was absolutely nothing within my power to stop it. I wanted it to stop hurting everyone else in the family. I wanted to not be judged and looked down upon because I had one of “those” kids. Because that kid was my beautiful smart baby and the devil had them hook line and sinker. I questioned every decision from the moment they were born until present and found fault with everything I had ever done. Twisting! Twisting! Twisting! So, I ran! I ran a lot! Every day, for weeks. I’m sure that everyone that encountered me on that running path thought I was crazy. Because, as I ran, the emotion I was trying so hard to hide was coming out of every pore. I cried! Openly wept as I ran. Snot is not cute when you are running and out of breath. I threw up. I lay in the tall grass with my heart about to explode and my lungs unable to catch up and silently screamed for help.

After a particularly brutal run as I was limping home, I heard God say as clear as any voice I’ve ever heard say, “I love your child more. They belong to me.” It hit me then that I was trying to control and fix something only God could. Of course, God loved my child more. It stopped me in my tracks. I was stunned. We were at the point that only He could save the situation. Being so fixated that I lost sight of Him within my own storm. The release of emotion. The untwisting. It felt like someone turned off everything. The quiet peace that created a buzzing hum in its stillness was balm to a raw wound. So, I stopped. I prayed harder than ever, but I stopped. I stopped the looking. I stopped the hating. I stopped the all-out rescue mission that was futile from the start. I was grateful that my beautiful friend was not standing at the edge of darkness waiting on the prodigal to make their way back.

Looking around I found others on that dark edge watching and waiting. Praying in the midst of the battle. I asked for forgiveness. I have never spoken of this with the woman who bore so much emotion without ever knowing it. I’m just now moving into a space that makes me brave enough to own it.

Appearances are just that. Images that can be altered and filtered.

C.S. Lewis is one of my favorite writers ever. Prince Caspian has a line at the end when he gets to choose to either enter into Aslan’s country or stay in Narnia. Free will reigns again! This line is a line that always pulls me around to face God in a way that only He can. He says, I spent too long wanting what was taken from me and not what was given. I was given a kingdom, a people. Wow! How could I not see the bounty He has blessed me with! Because I’ve gotten so fixated on the loss. On someone else’s gifts. I didn’t see His hand in my protection or provision. That is the rub of being able to see into other’s lives anonymously. It lets us become unfocused and nearsighted. It pulls the eye away from God and into the world of which we are not. I am thankful for the ability to celebrate and see the good work God is doing in the lives of my friends and family. I urge caution in the voyeuristic draw that can pull us away from the path set in front of us.

Praying all good things in Him always.

Patricia Emery

FB: ticia.emery


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1 Comment

Unknown member
Jul 01, 2021

Wow, that was impactful, Patricia. Your story is inspiring. Thanks for being willing to share with us even though it had to be very difficult. I walked away from social media, mostly FB, several years ago. Not for the exact reasons you describe but that absolutely factored into my decision. And, to this day I do not regret that decision. I try to live my life for this moment not a FB moment.

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