Instagramming My Inner Demons

Please excuse me; this is the pot calling the kettle black. Currently I operate not one, but two Instagram accounts. Every night, just before falling asleep, I peruse an endless feed of images. Picture after picture, set into vignettes of sepia-toned antiquity that turn mundane moments into cultural artifacts.

That’s the draw of Instagram, isn’t it? Not just images, but certain kinds of images. Photos framed with precision: hands and hair and brick and mortar and leaves and branches, all in harmony. Picturesque moments which never actually exist. Moments we wish (or filter?) into existence.

Instagram appeals to my self-conscious insecurities: the deep down me that wants to be another me. For a moment, simultaneously eternalized and forgotten in the sprawling wasteland of the internet, I am that other me. That other me who is adventurous, and discontent, and interesting. The fashionable me. The outdoor-adventure me. The artist me. The ideal parent me. The insider me. The fine-cuisine me. Whatever me it is, it’s a psuedo-me whom I project out to the world.

Is this freedom? To make my own identity? To craft my own brand? Or am I just convincing my small network that, “Yes, I’m worth it.” 

If we were honest, we could acknowledge the pressure to make our lives glow like they does in those 1:1 frames. I know the sneaking dissatisfaction lurking in our souls, whispering, “There is better than here. Fullness of life awaits.”

It crouches in every human soul: the desire to set out alone, to define oneself. It drove Adam to eat the forbidden fruit. Henry David Thoreau glorified it as “non-conformitym” as “sucking the marrow out of life.” It’s a longing for glory. Being boring is its enemy, mundanity its poison.

Sometimes Instagram taps into these hidden desires. It teaches me dissatisfaction and covetousness. It hates small lives, but knows no life big enough to satisfy it’s hunger.

I first experienced this when my wife and I decided to marry young (by today’s standards, anyway). Professors balked. Friends questioned. You want to settle down now? Before you set out on your own? What if you miss opportunities? What if you lose your dreams?

Friends moved to big cities, free from marital ties. Free from providing for others. Did we sacrifice our one opportunity to live just for marriage? In the film Revolutionary Road,  a couple lose their hearts settling for the suburbs. The wife literally dies. Did we do likewise? Should we mourn the death of our happiness and our dreams?

Whether you’re married or single, you’ve probably asked the same questions: Have I settled? Have I let my dreams go?

Instagram can be a drug, an easy fix to glory. It’s a high to crop, a rush to edit, a buzz to tweak and perfect and prove that I was made for great things. But then I crash. I see all the images of big cities, big mountains, and big lives and secretly wonder, “Am I a phony?”

I only know one feasible detox program for my aching wanderlust: true glory. Not handheld glory, but God-infused majesty. The Bible utterly rejects the notion that glory is somewhere or in something. No life is mundane. Why? Because true glory is in someone: God alone. It’s his to give, and he made us – this truth is almost inconceivable – to receive it, to enjoy it. You were made for glory. Isaiah writes,

Everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made. (Isaiah 43:7, emphasis added)

What actually satisfies my inner glory longings? Not an adventure, or a new start, or a new wife, or a new car, or a new house, or a new city. It’s being united to the glorious son of God: Jesus Christ, awaiting an eternal glory which far outweighs our pitiful Insta-imitations.

All whom he calls share in his purpose, no matter where they are, who they are, or how they’re wired. God infuses the so-called mundane with glory. He waters wheat, bonds atoms, guides history, and counts the hairs on your head. Yes, blades of grass appear ordinary, but each one glimmers with the glory of his caring provision. All that is shines with grandeur.

Your whole life is unordinary, because God plans and maintains it intimately. You are a child of the Lord of the universe. There is nothing mundane about you. When you participate in his kingdom on Earth, you build glories which will not pass away. His kingdom outlasts every blog, every house, every job.

Jesus himself hardly left a stretch of land 45 miles long. He spent most of his life in a backwater, rural town building stuff with his hands. Yet, he lived the most glorious life in human history. His life is God’s grand amen to the mundane.

There is glory in the mountains and the plains, in London and Columbia, in a president and a mechanic.  My Instagrammed life is a poor substitute for true glory. It scratches the itch until it’s infected. It leaves the longing dry. Jesus said to ask him instead. He is a stream which never dries, which flows into any place, into any person, into any job, into any home, into any relationship, and overflows into eternal glory.

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