When I came to bed the other night, my wife was sitting on the bed folding laundry. I joined in to help her finish up the basket and watched the remainder of a show with her on Netflix. It was a show about several widows who live in a coal mining town in 1910 who have started working in the mines so they don’t lose their homes. The show was kind of interesting. After a long day of work, one of the widows returned home, covered in black dust. Literally covered…from head to toe. As she talked with her children and one of her neighbors, I noticed something odd and I pointed it out to my wife. We both got a slight chuckle. It was the woman’s hair. It’s not that it was messy or partially covered in black. It’s what we saw in the part of her hair that wasn’t black. It had highlights. It looked like she had recently been to a nice, modern beauty salon. And her teeth. They were pearly white. We had a hard time believing that living in a remote town in the West in the early 1900’s allowed this widow much opportunity to gain access to many dental or cosmetology services.
As I laid in bed a short while later, I got thinking more about the show. How often do we allow movies or shows on TV to alter our concept of reality? How often do we allow Facebook or Instagram to set the standard we hold for ourselves or our family? It’s easy. I know it is. I’ve caught myself doing it. With few exceptions, these media sources (and many others) are anything but reality. Even if a show on TV is considered a “reality show”, it is likely either scripted, staged, or so heavily edited that reality is a distant memory.
Since media access has become a normal part of everyday life, we as Christians are going to have to make a conscious effort to not try and keep up with the Joneses. Your neighbor’s house is likely not as clean as you think it is. The perfect family at the park may have some real struggles they suffer through when behind closed doors. The young man who seems to be skyrocketing up the corporate ladder may go days without seeing his kids because he leaves before they get up and gets home when they are in bed.
We all have a tendency to put our best foot forward when we know that foot is going to be seen by someone else. A perfect example is how we scramble to clean our house when someone is coming to visit, then immediately apologize for how dirty it is when it may actually be the cleanest it has been in months. Maybe without knowing it, we are trying to give the impression that our house stays cleaner than it really does. Is it because we are trying to match our own reality with the reality we think everyone else has or expects?
Listen to what Paul writes to the Lord’s church in Corinth:
“But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.” [1 Corinthians 4:3-4]
Paul fully understood that the only One he needed to worry about pleasing was God. I’m sure he was not arrogant about this mindset. He did not walk about with his nose up at others like their opinions were worthless. However, at the end of the day, he grasped the concept that as long as we are approved by God, then disapproval from anyone else is irrelevant.
For most of what we see on TV or on social media, it’s not real. It’s heavy makeup and good lighting. If the first take wasn’t just right, it will be done again for perfection. You want to see reality? Look at the smile on your children’s faces. Feel the love in the embrace of your spouse. Better yet, look at the pages of God’s Word. That’s real. And that reality, my friend, is the measuring stick by which we will be truly judged someday.