“I pray God uses you to break new ground and make an eternal difference. However, when He does, you must brace yourself for more criticism and pain than you might imagine.” -Craig Groeschel, Dare to Drop the Pose
Facebook is a strange world, and I have met many people who describe themselves as having a love/hate relationship with the online community driven app. It’s partially perplexing, because it’s rules are unestablished. What is acceptable to one “friend” may cross a line for another “friend”. One truth most users will agree on is this: Facebook is not real.
I can jump on my computer at 6 AM and see pictures of a young couple going to their High School Prom. In naivety, I could assume they are either very late or very early for the dance–since no one leaves for the Prom at sunrise. In judgement, I could assume the happy couple are still at the Prom and have chosen to ignore all recommendations of what would be a sensible curfew for 16-year-olds. Or, in relative wisdom, I could look at the time stamp and see that the picture is 12 hours old. In this obvious scenario, Facebook users recognize it would be foolish for me to make one of the first two assumptions.
In keeping with the Prom theme, it would be equally foolish for me to assume that what I see in the picture tells the whole story. Upon further investigation, perhaps I would learn that this was a bad date all around. If the girl were to confide in me, perhaps she would share that she wished she had chosen more comfortable shoes, that her date spent the whole night pressuring her with sexual advances, or that her closest friends left early and went to a party where they got drunk. Perhaps she would admit that she had huge disappointments for how her Prom night had turned out.
And yet, the pretty picture would still sit nicely on her timeline. Still collecting “Likes”.
Several months ago, when my affair was made public to the women’s group at our church, I began receiving Facebook messages from women who attend the same church as myself. Most of them wanting to encourage me to cling to God. Some of them wanted to reach out to me because they themselves had felt the sting of this particular sin. Reading these emails made me realize there might be women who were looking for a way to understand their own journey. Once I began blogging, the enormity of the emails only increased, and they became more geographically widespread. Some of the women who have contacted me failed in their own vows, and some of them have husbands who have been unfaithful. Their stories are all different, but the common theme is a desire to connect and express the feelings they are having about their own journey.
Soon the blog stats showed that the posts were being read by people not just in the United States but around the globe. I was dumbfounded to imagine anyone in Tunisia would want to read what I wrote, let alone nine people in the Netherlands. (side note: where the heck is Tunisia?) However, I was able to recognize this: it had very little to with my writing, and more to do with what God might be doing.
This week I received my first piece of HATE mail, and the private message was downright mean. The writer indicated that my documentation of my journey was an assault to her. She went on to explain that while she was married to her previous husband, who had also been a pastor, she had an affair. She shared that she did not make her affair public. She doesn’t like the message I am sending for many reasons, but the saddest of all is because she doesn’t believe it is possible for a marriage to ever recover from infidelity. Her message to me had many accusations, but the first concept was simply this: Stop being happy on Facebook.
The writer bluntly stated, “How can you possibly pretend to have this perfect life on FB and go on knowing things will actually never be the same.” I was saddened when I read her words, because as she went on to share her story it was evident that her infidelity had led to the end of her marriage. I was also sad, because after she emailed me, she blocked me so I couldn’t respond to her. There were things I would want to give to her, not in an attempt to defend my life–but in an attempt to help her find hope in her own life.
I began to ponder what she had said. I asked myself if I was “pretending to have a perfect life on FB.” I thought about the pictures I have posted of myself–mostly pictures of my granddaughter or my husband and myself.
- Did I take my granddaughter swimming this week? Yes.
- Did my granddaughter cry when I took her out of the pool and made her take a nap. Yes…but I didn’t photograph that.
- Did I dine with my husband at our favorite coffee shop on Monday morning? Yes.
- Did we go to that coffee shop after an emotionally draining morning dealing regret and disappointment? Yes…but I didn’t mention it in a status update.
That made me think about the Prom scenario–the picture of the couple is taken and that reflects a part of the story, but not the story in its entirety. Even the painful things the teenager encountered may have silver linings. Perhaps she took off her shoes and danced barefoot for the first time. Perhaps the behavior of her date and her friends solidified truths that her parents or church youth leaders had been pouring into her. This night of crisis had exposed what she herself believed about peer pressure and purity, and perhaps–for her–this was an evening of victory. Not documenting every single detail of the Prom date on Facebook does not mean the teenage girl was pretending to have gone to the Prom any more than I am pretending to have a perfect life.
I think of the rest of the accusation: “How can you possibly pretend to have this perfect life on FB and go on knowing things will actually never be the same”
Going on knowing things will never be the same is not a fear, it is a hope.
I don’t want the marriage I had, and my husband doesn’t want that marriage either. We have been working to embrace every aspect of this trial to allow it to transform us. Following any failure, there is a window of opportunity for transformation. Transformation is not a guarantee with failure–it is a choice. We either mask and hide when our failure is revealed, or we walk through it. Just because a person fails does not mean they will be transformed by the failure. Living in and experiencing the natural consequences–not covering them up is the road that must be traveled to find transformation. The natural consequences of sin are purely emotional and spiritual, and are not the same as man’s judgement of sin. But, most people don’t like to deal with emotions that are raw and painful. One of the most difficult aspects to embrace is the grief. With infidelity there is grief, and no person in their right mind likes grief.
Grief visited our home two decades ago when our 19-month-old daughter died. The difference this time is we are also dealing with shame and blame. The other difference is that this time, while we are both experiencing grief–it is from opposite sides of a two sided fence. The challenge early on was to try to get on the same side of the fence, but we couldn’t. We needed a third side on our two sided fence. For a third side of a fence to present itself, we needed a miracle.
With each of us clinging to the long, strong arm of God, He pulled us each up and over our opposite sides of the fence so that we would be in a new pasture–we moved to His side of the fence. As long as we remain in this new pasture, things won’t be the same.
The truth of our past reminds me of this: when we faced grief with the death of our daughter, we still took our other three children to the park to feed the ducks, we still taught them how to ride their bicycles, and we still cheered for them at swim meets. We grieved deeply for what we had lost, but we still enjoyed the beauty in the life we had. Granted there was no Facebook to document the life we were pretending to have, so perhaps it never happened at all.
8 thoughts on “Stop Being Happy on Facebook”
I’m happy we are on the same side of the fence. It is so good to be walking side by side and hand in hand as we share our journey in this adventure we call “the story of David and Jackie.” I love you and I am so thankful that God has gifted you with the mind, ability…gift…to share in the written word what we feel, think, believe and know…God is greater than any sin and any challenge we face. He can make beauty out of anything…Romans 8:28. I love you.
I will pray for that person. I know as a parent I want nothing more than for my children to learn from their mistakes, face their consequences, and move forward. Make the necessary changes required for happiness. Much like my Father in heaven wants for us as His children. I have watched this unfold, I can only imagine the hard days I can only imagine the grieving that has been done. I find joy in seeing the posts, knowing we are seeing the happiest of what could be a HARD moment in life. So sorry that persons marriage had to end, just maybe if she/they could have dealt with the raw emotions, dug deep to figure out what exactly went wrong. …..The hateful would have been one of encouragement. I have said to you before, seeing how the 2 of you have dug deep to hold on to what you have has changed how I have always thought I would handle infidelity. Please continue to share your happiness with us on FB. There are so many marriages that need to brought to reconciliation. … I LOVE that David is usually the first response on your blog. ….that say so much!
I fell sorry for your friend because through your healing God was convicting her? Perhaps you planted the seed that will someday be a ray of he in her life…. All you can do is pray for her and go o. With your journey which obviously for all of us including those in Turnisia is nourishing souls! Keep it up! Love ya!
I think what you are doing is very courageous! It is refreshing to see REAL life happening in a blog and on Facebook. I have not experienced what you and David are going through but if you are relying on God then I know you will make it through and better off for it. I think your journey is a great testimony for God. I hope people are able to see past the two imperfect people in this situation and can see the perfect life giving God that we have. I encourage you to continue to write!!! It is inspiring to many like myself. It speaks of the greatness of God!
The lives of people dealing with grief are looked at under a microscope. People want to know how they will respond to such heartache. I will admit that I have looked at these photos of you and your family with some of the same thoughts. How are they just moving on so easily? But then I read the blogs and I see you in person and I look a little closer. The smile is not the same. The demeanor is just a bit different. If you look closely you can see the struggle, the battle to continue by the sweet grace of God. It’s a truer smile, maybe not as exuberant as before, but its more real than ever. A smile that might be a little harder to pose for photos, but shows that life can go on. It’s different than before but better yet from the hope in Christ. There is a humility to the demeanor that recognizes that we know the best and the worst. I am glad that I do though, because now I know you. The photos are not a facade of a lie that you are living anymore, it’s the proof that God redeems and it might be rough, but life does continue. Keep the photos coming and continue to share the best and the worst with us.
I’ve been contemplating between commenting or messaging you. Since finding out about your affair, it has made me re-think my own assumptions and ideas about my personal experience with infidelity. I come from a family that was recently broken by a parent’s long-term struggle with infidelity, so I know firsthand how painful this is for both the spouse and the family. In dealing with my parent’s crumbled marriage and separation, I vowed to distance myself from serious relationships because clearly, love was not something that lasted forever. I was scared of heartbreak and deceit, and all of the other hurtful consequences of affairs. But, of course, God being amazing and somewhat humorous, introduced me to my wonderful future husband a year after the separation of my parents. Both my fiancee and this blog have been a huge blessing in my life because one, I’ve learned the power of forgiveness and love and I have begun healing the relationship between my parent that had an affair and I. Two, I have been inspired by my fiancee and David’s ability to continue to love, nurture, encourage and support. And three, your incredible and undeniable strength and honesty.
I’ve learned that we can either dwell in the past or choose to find happiness in life’s everyday gifts. Did my parents separate? Yes. Did it make a me a stronger woman, and understand the gift of family that God has blessed us with? Absolutely. There is no sin in being happy; it doesn’t mean that you are overlooking or making light of an unpleasant situation. It takes strength to put on a smile and show love, happiness, and kindness when all you really want to do is curl into a ball and cry and eat ice cream straight from the container.
As I prepare for my marriage, I read your blog posts eagerly for guidance and strength. I am so anxious for this upcoming December. I know that we may perhaps falter and stumble and backslide in our faith and marriage. But armed with the atonement and the desire to be Christlike in our marriage, as well as seeing how much David’s incredible love and forgiveness has allowed you to blossom and grow, including your strength, it calms me down. If you two can reconcile and work through these hard times, against all odds, it brings peace to my heart and calms my soul.
So I apologize for the long post, but you have blessed me with encouragement for my own marriage and have inspired me to show my happiness and joy for life, and I want to thank you for that.
Hi Jackie, I love your humility and am so thankful for the way you and your husband and moving forward in life. I learned something in high school that I never forgot, something a person said to me once that so profoundly effected me that I can remember the exact place he said it as if I were standing in the memory. “Don’t believe anything you hear, and only half of what you see.” I’ve taken to heart this simple truth. When we see posts on Facebook or instagram they are not the whole story, they aren’t even half of it most of the time. We have 24 hours in a day and we post but a few seconds. You said it well when you said we all make judgments off a picture like the situation of prom. But we aren’t in someone else’s shoes, we don’t know their lives and we sure don’t know their hearts. I’ve also heard it said “keep your doubts private and your faith public.” When we post negative things, people tend to question our faith, they see that we don’t trust God when in reality, we do, we just aren’t impervious to pain like some would think. But as a leader, your followers cant all take the negative. Some can, but not most. Words have power, negative words and negative posts have more power than positive I’m afraid. Science shows that for every negative word spoken, one needs 10 positive to remove it. Which means if you posted all the hard times, you’d need to post hundreds to tip the scale again in a positive direction. I say all this to encourage you. You are doing the right thing. Both of you. Your not perfect, you know that already, but you have a rare courage in the Lord. Keep posting positive, show your readers their is good in Gods plans. Keep being real in your posts and never allow anyone to change your heart, ever. May God bless you both.