My kids will never understand how truly cool it was to have a pager in middle school, how the card catalog worked, or the importance of getting the picture on the first shot in order to conserve film. So many of these experiences are obsolete to today’s generation, who are instead well-versed in technology and social media. Yet, during my formative years before iPhones and Facebook, there is one memory locked into my mind that has grown more powerful and enlightening with time. You can even say it is a bit haunting.
One of Disney World’s most popular attractions is the Haunted Mansion. Upon entering the mansion, guests are huddled into the famous cobwebbed stretching room. This is where the resident ghost gives his welcome while everyone is surrounded by portraits on the wall. As the room begins to stretch upward, the paintings begin to expose more than originally seen. My favorite is a young lady in a floral dress holding a parasol, perfectly poised in her demeanor. As the room continues to elongate, the portrait slowly reveals she is walking on a tightrope…and it is frayed! Then, seconds later, the bigger picture can be seen in its entirety, showing an alligator beneath her with his mouth wide open— waiting for her demise.
Even as an elementary-aged girl visiting Disney, this imagery left an impact. How could something that looked so beautiful and tranquil in reality be such a horrific situation? Yet, in today’s society, the tightrope girl and her cautionary tale is one we all can relate to; all we have to do is consider the self-created peepholes into our lives that we share on social media.
It’s easy to scroll through our Facebook newsfeed and Instagram and see only the tropical vacations, gourmet dinners, proud new purchases, lovey-dovey messages and magazine-worthy family photos. It looks like we have our lives together. All the Joneses we follow look like they have it even more together. In fact, the view we’re given of others’ lives can lead us to wonder, why is my life such a mess and how does our friend, fill-in-the-blank, do it all?
The comparison game starts playing in our minds. We start assuming others are just strolling through life with their parasols. Yet this could not be further from the truth.
The reality is, we are all on a frayed tightrope somewhere in our life—there is no filter tool or posed selfie that can truly hide it. When others see just a millisecond snapshot of our life, they don’t see the bigger picture. Behind the smiles and sunset landscapes could lie a relationship on the rocks, tears of infertility, unimaginable pain due to the death of a loved one, chronic illness, divorce, lack of self-esteem, mental health challenges, financial crisis, a shameful past, depression, the darkness of addiction, the cycle of abuse… and the list goes on. Even with the best spin on life, however, there is someone who sees each of our struggles and knows every detailed brush stroke on our life portrait.
God cannot be fooled by personas; He sees us struggling with each of our balancing acts in life. In Hebrews 4:13 it states “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight…”, which is a reminder that the bigger picture, the one even we cannot see, is known only by Him.
As humans, we need to remember that many struggles are unseen, even to the keen eye; so let’s be kinder, loving and non-assuming. In an age where perfection is glorified and promoted, remember God offers rest to the weary, comfort to the hurting, and power to overcome.
By Lili Hiser