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When I was a brand new mom, I wanted the world to know my daughter and see just how beautiful she was. She was my world and I was convinced everyone wanted a picture of her that they could show off on their refrigerators. I sent baby pictures to friends and family and I was sure that they probably couldn’t get enough of her sweet little face.
That was before the internet and social media. Now we can upload every cute little activity, smile, or whim of our child’s life within seconds for the world to see. Our children are on display and we show them off with pride. But can sharing our most precious pictures of our children become more of an obsession and a form of idolatry than an innocent peek into our kids’ lives?
I have been struggling with posting pictures of my kids on the internet for a while now. Everyone does it. Some over-do it. There are even blogs that chronicle the lives of parents and their children. But have we forgotten the sacredness of raising our children in our attempt to share our joy over them?
Children are blessings. They are our pride and joy and it’s understandable to want to show-off the gifts God has given to us. However, it’s very easy to let our children consume our world just like a job, a hobby, or anything that shows success in our lives. Yes, our children often consume our lives with their needs and schedules. But when we find that our own self-image is wrapped around our need to put them on display then perhaps we are creating idols out of our children.
It’s so easy to let our kids meet all our emotional needs. But that is not what God wants from us as mothers and fathers. Our children were created to walk along side of us in life until they are old enough to walk out on their own. They add to who we are and we learn from them but they are not supposed to define who we are. That isn’t what God intended when he blessed us with children.
My world was consumed with my first-born for the first several months and I even probably idolized her a little too much. I am learning (three kids later) that my children do not and should not define who I am. I love them and I occasionally show them off in pictures but I try to remember they are not about ME, they are about who God created them to be. I am just along for the ride and God’s granted me the opportunity of guiding them along until I have to let them go.
So now when I post that picture, I am careful to remember the sacredness of these years with my children. They go way too fast. My kids are not to be idolized or worshiped as a reflection of me. Instead, I am supposed to raise them as a reflection of Christ. Teaching them to value the things of God more than our own accomplishments in life. A lesson you can’t put up on a refrigerator or on a social media site. And a lesson I am learning daily in balancing God and family.
Remember in Snow White when the evil Queen says, “Mirror, mirror on the wall who’s the fairest of them all?” What a blow to her self-image to learn that the fairest was Snow White. We have all been like that Queen, looking in the mirror for answers. I think it is safe to say that we are the most critical about ourselves when we are looking in the mirror. When I was a new mother I learned a valuable lesson about my self-image and looking for answers in the mirror.
I struggled as a teenager and up into my twenties with my looks and my confidence. I never liked what I saw in the mirror and was always trying to find ways to improve how I looked. I don’t know if a day would go by when I didn’t think about my weight, my hair, my clothes and my need to feel worthy of the image I set in my mind of how I should look. Now, I know many people can relate to my struggle. This is exhausting to live with, both as the person struggling and those that have to deal with it on a daily basis with you. My husband could only take so much of my constant questioning on how I looked and one day he set me straight.
I was having one of my many insecure days and complaining about how I looked. My husband said to me, “Every day that you question yourself and me about how you look, you chip away at your own daughters’ confidence and self-worth.” Wow, it was like the light bulb finally turned on in my head. It was one thing for me to feel personally insecure but I definitely did not want to make both of my daughters see themselves through my own insecurity. I also realized that not only was I driving my husband crazy, but I was dishonoring God who created me. I started to realize that God sees me the same way I look upon my children.
All mothers view their children with biased eyes. There is nothing you would change about who they are in appearances. Each child has a little bit of the mother or father and each is unique in his or her own way. God is biased, too. He wouldn’t change a thing about you because he made you in His image. I realized that I wasn’t only chipping away at my own self-confidence, but I was separating myself from fully feeling the love of Christ.
I am raising my children in a world that values appearances above character. They are learning that the world around them focuses on beauty, weight, fitness and popularity. In the age of social media and selfies, it seems we can’t escape self-obsession. If there is one thing that I can do right by my children, it is to look on myself with confidence and be proud in who God created me to be. This might mean I have to grin and bear it when I put on a few extra pounds. I might have to realize that I will never have hair that can be advertised on a shampoo bottle. There may be days that I look in the mirror and I don’t like what I see. However, I have learned that it isn’t just about me. It is about my children who need to feel loved and confident. It is about my relationship with Christ and feeling worthy of the honor of His creation… ME.
My children will have days of doubt and insecurity (we all do on occasion) but I know now that I do not want to be an example of insecurity in their lives. I want them to know that Mom is happy in her own skin in who God created her to be and they should be, too. I no longer dwell on the things I cannot change, so that my children will realize they were created with a purpose both inside and out.