I read an article the other day about a spike in suicide rates among students at top US universities.
“Effortless perfection,” the article states, has become the unspoken goal of many young, high-achieving co-eds. Anything short of it in academic, curricular and social endeavors is a shameful and unmanageable failure. At Stanford it even has a name – the Duck Syndrome – because as the duck glides calmly across the water, it paddles frantically below.
While posting the perfect selfie of course.
The story is sad on so many levels, but this post isn’t about why people take their lives, it’s about the fantasy of “effortless perfection.”
Even though that is the dumbest oxymoron in history, it tricks me all the time. I space out and scroll while Sam feeds the cows, letting the propaganda wash over me like green slime.
“Maybe I should decorate the living room like that, or do more side planks like Gillian, or drink coconut water and cleanse.” Then of course, I do none of those things and my subconscious whips me like a rented mule.
I know the behavior is absurd and so do you.
But when your face breaks out and your double chin shows, do you put that on Facebook? There’s no Instagram filter that can hide your muffin tops in a cute group photo, so you delete it. And when you’re at the county jail visiting your kid for the 22nd time, do you check in? Who does that?
That everybody crafts an online image is hardly news, but to blame Facebook for being a big, fat liar is like blaming Budweiser for your hangover – it contributed certainly, but it isn’t the problem.
The problem is we’re insecure, jealous, a little bit lost and looking for someone to lead us out of the woods.
Jesus’ friends had the same problem.
One morning while making breakfast on the beach, Jesus was talking to Peter about how hard Peter’s life was about to become. Just then, John appeared. John, as you may recall, referred to himself as “the one whom Jesus loved.” Doesn’t that sound just like your friend who gags you with her “perfect child” posts, especially when yours is being a jerk?
What about that guy, Peter asked Jesus. How’s it going to go for him?
How about you mind your own biscuits Peter, Jesus answered, kind of. Not really, here’s the real scripture.
If you’re wandering around lost in the woods, it’s natural to get bent out of shape with people who don’t seem lost at all. But since you have no idea what my real life looks like, lamenting your condition, even subconsciously, in the light of what I show you on Facebook, is foolishness. It’s a distraction from the one who can actually lead you out of the woods.
And why not follow someone who describes himself as all-knowing?
If you’re not a Jesus-guy, I get that, but who do you follow when you’re lost? Yourself? Your friends? Hipsters on Instagram? Your cousin’s pastor on Facebook? How do you know they aren’t just as lost as you, frantically paddling like the young women at Stanford and Penn State?
What John got right about Jesus is this: He was as deep in the woods as Peter. He didn’t know how it was going to end, but he laid back, right against Jesus’ chest and rested in the midst of it. Never a bad idea.
I think a lot of people would like Jesus better if they quit following his followers and just followed him instead. Jesus explains how to do that in the gospels a lot better than your friends do on Facebook.
Don’t go to bed mad, shut your mouth, forgive people when they don’t deserve it, don’t covet your neighbor’s stuff, learn what mercy is, follow me. Trust me. I’ll show you.
It’s such an amazing offer, really. So next time you catch yourself sinking in the face of some effortlessly perfect status update, take a cue from Jesus.
“What is that to you? You follow me!”