I am wondering about something. Why does God put us on the path He chooses for us?
Here’s some context to my wondering. There are certain beliefs that I share with many Christian friends, certain lifestyle choices I would make, have made in the past, actually. These lifestyle choices are seen by many to be almost non-negotiable for Christian families. Yet, the only reason Christian families who make them are capable of doing so is because God has put them in a situation that will allow them to comfortably do so.
Some might say that the circumstances of these families’ lives are definitely in place because of God’s sovereignty over all, but they would argue that they also have a solid commitment to their lifestyle choice and that all their decisions over time have been made within the framework of that commitment. I believe this is true, but I also know that God doesn’t always do things so neatly. He doesn’t always allow people to remain so firmly “committed” to a lifestyle choice or ideology that they are able to do all that they want to or choose to.
But somehow, when others we know don’t act within the framework we have deemed as the only way Christian families should, the judgments start to roll out. Thoughts like . . . they aren’t committed enough; they are giving up their ideals; Is that any way to raise a Christian family begin to sneak in to minds of other Christians who are standing by . . . watching, waiting.
In this age of internet communication, we learn so much, perhaps too much, about what our friends and acquaintances are doing . . . and are thinking. But so much of what we learn is polished, all nice and shiny for Christian friends, family, and the world to see. Is all of what people are sharing so neat and easy? People who read about our lives on the internet begin to think they know us, and, therefore, they think they can judge our decisions. Sometimes, these judgments have repercussions in the real world, too. But the reality is, we really don’t know all the facts. We know the edited, shiny version of people’s lives. We are living in a digital age of keeping up with the Joneses . . . or the Christians in another part of the country.
Another problem is that when we look at what everyone else in our “circle” is doing, we start to feel that we don’t measure up. We start to feel inadequate. Again, the shinyness of our digital selves plays a part in this. We don’t measure up because we are only seeing a small portion of what is really going on . . . only the “presentable” or “for company” part. We are not seeing the struggles, the heartache, the loneliness, the pain that isn’t appropriate for internet sharing. So we only have a portion of the information, and we can’t make proper comparisons without all the facts. Really.
This wondering of mine is a bit disorganized, but I am trying to make a point. Blogs and Facebook and other social media are great—a fun way to keep track of friends and family, to “stay connected.” But they don’t tell the whole story. We cannot make judgments about what others are saying or doing solely based on posts we read on the internet. We also cannot make judgments about our own inadequacies based solely on the posts we read. In real life—with other human beings who have flesh and blood and with whom we converse—we worry about how we come across, we have hurt feelings, we struggle to treat each other as we know we should. How much more difficult it is to accurately understand or “read” others when we only interact with them via the internet!
Ultimately, we need to be more gracious and charitable toward one another. And, it is SO hard. I hate that I am often the hardest on myself and the ones closest to me. So I have to come back to the Scripture and ask God to help me extend grace to the people I come in real flesh and blood contact with as well as in the internet world. I have to remind myself over and over again about God’s desire for me to treat others as I want to be treated. Oh how I fail! Here’s the reminder I am thinking about right now:
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d]says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 9:12-21