Ten year old Donna could never have even imagined the world we live in today. Such innocent times I grew up in. I grew up with no car seat, often nekkid in a creek, running a Girl Scout Cookie Mafia, going to church, visiting family and their churches, swimming, catching my own bait and fishing, living on a dirt road "exploring," talking, riding bikes, being tortured by my little sister, conspiring against her with my cousin, talking, singing, singing in any church I could, digging holes and getting in trouble for it. (Turns out, adults don't appreciate a proper hole in their roads...something about shocks and u-joints or something.)We spent our weekends at the deer camp (usually with family) where the children had to be "outside" regardless of the temperature or weather patterns, on a deer stand or at the rifle range. It was a time before many of the conveniences and technologies of today. I was just myself because I didn't know I could be anyone else, nor could I have even begun to imagine how one would do that or why? What you saw was what you got. Not a single person on this planet (except for my Grannies and my Pawpaw) hung on my every word and no one asked to see a picture of what my Mama cooked up for supper. (At our house we had supper, not dinner. That was for high fa-looting city people.) People in my very small world knew the real me. My likes, my dislikes, my faith and how I wore my hair every day. They knew that I was never still and that I was a talker. When I got a new toy, I told everyone I knew and they knew what it looked like because they had one too. If I was excited, I was excited!!! Everywhere!
I grew up in a time where my Daddy's policy was "What everyone else thinks about me is none of my business." He was always himself. Always. Everywhere. All day. Every day. While I didn't go to work with him, I was often surrounded and loved by those he worked with. I heard their stories. Don't like him? He didn't care. He was a hard working, well respected and honorable man. His word was good and his handshake was as good as his word. For reals. He was always the same person. The light he shined was "man's man." No shadows.
Fast forward a few...lot...of years. We now live in a world where you can be anything you want to be. Maybe not in real life, but in the online world you can create an image that may or may not be the real you. There are entire virtual worlds dedicated to allowing people to be someone else. Not satisfied with who you really are? No problem. You are not bound by your looks, your weight, your job or economic status. You can role play online and make a virtual "who you wish you were" and get a second life or whatever is popular now.
We also have bunches of social media sites where we have "friends" or "followers" or what have you.. Many of them are very popular, there are new ones every day. and much like being seen on the the nerd side of Sonic, heaven forbid you get caught logging into one who's "out." I have an account on most of them and check in every now and then. As a parent, it's my responsibility to stalk my children and to know where they hang out, even online. Also, I'm a people-ish person. I like to keep up.
Lately, I've become convicted about something and I thought I'd share it with you. Here's my first huge realization: I choose the light I shine before this world. My real world AND also my online world.
As a child, my life was one big open life. As modern adults, we compartmentalize our worlds (home, neighborhood, work, church, weekends, hobbies, spare time, etc.)We really don't mix it up much anymore, at least not in my 'burb. We have different people who see and participate in different areas of life. So very few people really, really know me these days and that is hard. Especially when your opinion of me is not the same as my opinion of me. I believe that I choose who you think I am, what you think I do, where you think I go, what I want you to think my passions and hobbies are and how much about my life you get to know. I can choose to weight it any way I choose.
There's another thing I noticed the other day while perusing Facebook, I noticed that what I think of many people is largely determined by what they post and the frequency and weight they give their "stuff." For example, there are people I truly assume just sit in their house watching "Duck Dynasty" all day. Do they sleep? I don't know. There are people I mistakenly believe live and die for the product they are selling. There are some who I believe live in utter despair because that's what they share with me. There are people who are grandparents and that is all they are anymore. There are runners, gossips, drinkers, crafters, knitters, potty-mouths, brainiacs, funny people, people of faith, people of no faith, pet people, dieters, complainers, scripture quoters, sad people, perpetually happy people, parents, artists, preachers, students...you get the gist. But in my mind, they are very one dimensional. I only know of them what they choose for me to know.
Which led to my second revelation: I only control what they see, I don't control their opinion of me. I control the flashlight but I can't control the shadows that are cast. I can minimize the negative that is out there by being very careful what I share publicly.
To most of my "friends," I am one dimensional. If you only know me online, you know I have a twisted sense of humor, have puppies and have no problem being a ridiculous person on this planet. You know that I'm a Longhorn fan. You know I say I love Jesus, but you can't know if I walk the walk. You know I love people, and their kids and grandkids. I love their pictures. You also know I'm married to Mr. Perfect. I'm almost never publicly down, a few organizations that I'm passionate about and some authors I follow. You know I'm sassy and I don't generally use foul language. You will know that I have kids. You might know their ages or have see their pictures. But that's about it.
If we attend church together, and we "chat" for 3 minutes every couple of weeks, if we run into each other on occasion or sometimes end up out with a group together, you will know a bit more. You will know I have a weight problem and that I don't always act like is a problem (trust me, it is) that I used to run a Women's Ministry and you might have noticed I don't drink coffee and have a big Dr. Pepper problem.You might even know the names of my children and that I'm proud of them. You may think that I'm an emotional robot with no feelings. You might assume, based on other people you've known, that I'm judgmental and have never sinned.
Come a little closer, say if you're someone who is in Bible Study or in a volunteer organization with me. You will know I'm opinionated. Strong willed. Tenacious. That I really work hard to practice what I preach and that I am always at war with my hair. You know that I'm so proud of my babies that I could bust. You know I'm not only a Longhorn fan, but I hate sports on TV. You know I'm endlessly fascinated with what most people consider minutiae. And that I'm still a talker. You will assume that I don't wear my hear on my sleeve, but you'll know that I care about "people."I begin to take on a second dimension and I'm not what you expected.
But if you are one of the few who KNOW me, really know me, you will know so much more. I then become a real girl. You will know that my heart only truly breaks when I think that the heart of God is breaking. You will know that I'm aware that the person guilty of it is often me. You will know my children. You will know that when their hearts break, I've got the car gassed and ready to roll to "handle it" Mama style and I only don't do that because I've been forbidden. You'd know why I'm proud of them. You would know that one of them rarely allows me to speak of him on Facebook because he doesn't think I'm as funny as I think I am. You will know that I am a Longhorn fan because I'm a Longhorn married to a Longhorn and I'm terrified of stadiums because of that one time. You will know that I'm self-conscious. You'll know that I'm not good at showing emotions and I will almost never (only once) lose control of my emotions but they are there and they are strong.You will know that that sassy is sometimes covering up insecurity and that I am often almost eaten alive by those insecurities. You will learn to recognize when I'm NOT saying what I wish I was saying because I am very opinionated and outspoken and sometimes it physically hurts to shut up. You will know I'm learning to keep my mouth shut. Learning. You'll know I rarely suffer fools and generally know how to handle my business because my Daddy raised me not to need anyone. You'll also know that Perfect is my rock and I desperately need him and love him second only to God. You will know that I will walk through hell barefoot to try to drag out one methhead or alcoholic or depressed person or abused child (or almost anyone who need it) with me. You will know that to me they are simply people, just like me. You will know that I'm unshockable. You will feel the mercy. You will know I can't judge. You will know I struggle and come from a family that is no stranger to addiction. You will know my past. You will know that I have a will of iron and a backbone of steel and that if I am crashing, it's a BIG deal. You will know my Mama and my sister. You will also know that I stink at small talk and am almost incapable of it. Awkwardness and social anxiety runs high in this one. You probably don't understand my fascination with politics and the law but you know I sometimes like to sit in court hearings and trials for no reason. You'll know that the things that terrify me are small to most people and the things that terrify most people usually don't bother me at all. You will know that I'm a loyal friend forever and I've never lost a real friend. You will know that I'm fanatical about knowing and understanding God's Word. I love theology. I love to hang out in the Christian Book Store in the Pastor section. I love Jesus with everything I have every day. You will also know there are dark days where I wish I could stay in bed and there are days filled with pain. You will know that I am actually funny. That I can sing and am a compulsive harmonizer. That I am a frustrating, complicated, beautiful bundle of me. I sin. You will know that I'm a real girl. You will also know that I'm not just a woman AND a broad, I'm also a lady. These are people who don't just "see" my posts. They "see" me and I "see" them. They are relationships sown and watered and cultivated in real live life and over time.
The point of all of that is this: Don't assume you know people you don't know. Try not to judge them by the small slice of their life you are privy to. They, like you, like me, are so much more. Good and not so good.
Lastly: When you make posts on social media, blogs or whatever, remember that you are heavily influencing what people think of you and for those who aren't in your inner circle, that is the light that will shine brightest. If you are a child of God, please shine your faith the brightest. And if you ever get the feeling that I'm shining anything else brighter than my Savior, call me on it. Because I need you to know that He loves you. That He died for you to save you from a real and actual hell and that I really do, after all these years, believe it with all of my heart. And after that, I really don't care too much what you think of me, It's none of my business.