Here it is, that perfectly posed picture that screams “we’re so in love!”. And we are, so in love. But this picture also is posed, after hours in the sun, with a photographer literally telling my husband “act like you’re happy”.
Act like you’re happy. Those words seem like the basic instructions of your engagement photographer but let’s be honest, they can easily become your motto. What we choose to share on social media and with the world around us are those perfectly happy moments. Not that our happiness isn’t real, but we have many other real emotions too. I love my husband, I am happily married, but I am not always happy. Shouldn’t we be able to admit that? Why is it so important to gain the approval of others at the cost of filtering out anything but perfection?
If you look at the photos I posted of our engagement session, you would see a perfectly happy, so in love, over the moon couple with not a single care in the world. You would see a couple who laughs together on the beach, taking sunset walks with our perfectly behaved dog. What you won’t see is that my now husband was complaining about the heat, and the rain, and the millions of photos we took to get the perfect shot. You won’t see that my dress was falling down and had to be tied together at one point because I ordered the wrong size and didn’t have time to replace it. You won’t see our dog running around the beach he wasn’t supposed to be on, needing to be chased and bribed with treats to sit still for one good photo. You certainly won’t see the hard days that came before that moment and have followed since. You won’t see my tears in marriage counseling because I wanted God to work faster than He was. You won’t see my nagging about the towel on the bed (I promise, we will get to that story in good time). You won’t see me asking my girlfriends “does this happen in your marriage?” because I felt like I was the only one.
When we start to lose ourselves in the filters we put on our lives and on our marriages, we fall into a trap set by the enemy. We don’t want anyone else to know that things are not as perfect as they may seem on our Instagram profiles. We get lost in comparison and wanting the approval of others in forms of “likes” and comments. We want everyone to know we have the best husband in the world, the best marriage, the best life. We display an image of pure happiness and we wouldn’t dare share the moments of marriage that are messy or just plain hard.
I think for me, that’s where I started to lose my joy, which is so much more important than happiness. I was so focused on sizing my marriage up to what I saw on social media that I was losing focus on what God was trying to do in my marriage. Act like you’re happy. We allow the approval of man to steal our joy and hide behind an act of happiness, rather than having faith that God will reward our honesty in our need for Him. We would rather pretend we are perfect than seek out perfect love. Everyone else’s marriage is perfect! How do we know? We saw it on Instagram. And of course what we see on Instagram is the gospel truth. (Insert eye roll here). The enemy wants us to seek the approval of man over God because that’s where we fall short. The enemy wants us to focus more on filtering our lives for others to “like” over seeking God in our imperfections. Perfect love is unconditional, it doesn’t come at the cost of a filtered version of what’s real.
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10
In a world where we share our lives so publicly for approval, isn’t it time we step back and ask ourselves whose approval it is we are seeking, and whose approval it is we need to seek? When did it become more important to show the world how perfect your marriage is instead of showing the world how good your God is? It is when we are vulnerable and need Him the most that His work in us and our marriages shines the brightest light. We can have incredible marriages and still have a need for God in the center of them. We can have the strongest marriages when we are willing to admit we need a little help and go to the one who will strengthen us. We can serve God in our marriages simply by admitting we need Him to be a part of them, that we don’t have it all figured out, but He sure does.
What I have found is that when I am real about my marriage and admit out loud that it’s not always perfect, there is always a “me too” somewhere in the conversation whether it be with a friend, in a bible study or small group, or a post online. We aren’t alone in this ladies. We all allow the filtered marriages of those around us and the small glimpses from a perfectly posed photograph to make us question our own happiness. We all sometimes feel like we just don’t have it all together as everyone else. But that’s a lie the enemy tells us to keep us from the good plans God has for our marriage.
When we are truthful that we have our hard days, not so easy circumstances, disagreements, or times that we just feel inadequate, it opens room in our hearts for God to come in and do some work. We need to focus on what God is doing in our marriage rather than wondering what other people think of it. We don’t need the “likes” on Instagram or to act like we are happy for the world to see. What the world needs to see isn’t the filters, but the testimony of God at work in our marriage. We best serve Him when we show the world who He is and what He’s doing in our lives. Isn’t that the type of marriage we want? The kind of marriage that seeks the approval of God and not man. After all, that is the most important approval we will ever gain.