In the early days of February, while languishing in bed with flu, I made an uncharacteristic decision that required my time and attention for weeks. Luckily after I tapped my credit card number into the box and hit send, H was perfectly fine with what I was about to do.
I signed up for an Instagram course.
Before I lead you astray in believing that decision was careless, let me explain why I decided to do it.
During a string of bed-ridden days, I awakened with unusual clarity: I’ve been stuck in the 2460’s on Instagram for months and need to do something about it.
For those of you who aren’t on Instagram, being stuck means I was gaining and losing the same number of new followers every day.
I know, I know – who cares? Why is this important? Why would this be my first thought of the day?
Publishers and agents care about numbers. Followers are important for an author because the numbers often carry more influence than the words composed in manuscripts. That’s why we need your likes, engagement, follows, subscriptions, and book reviews.
Numbers have always been a conundrum without clarity or solution for me. I’ve never been good at math.
Offering a repeated casual prayer, I push the lever down on the tea kettle. Because tea steeps like my mind seeking solutions.
Scrolling through my Instagram gallery over breakfast in an attempt toward clarity about why I’m stuck, I randomly select a photo and re-read the comments. Because truthfully, for me, Instagram is like a scrapbook of documented life events. It’s good to remember how God has been faithfully afoot in my days.
The picture I selected was taken from inside my house, probably snapped while walking down the stairs in pajamas, on the way to collect a cup of tea from the kitchen. It was a quiet Sunday in London. Snow was uncharacteristically floating through the sky like ash.
My caption included a lament about being without a car and H trudging to church on foot in below freezing temperatures. And a stranger from Ireland left a lovely, compassionate comment. A short but memorable conversation between us ensued.
Surrounded by crumpled tissues and boxes of cold medicine, I clicked on her name again and perused all Nicola’s delicious photos I missed since our initial encounter. One in the gallery garnered my attention so I selected it and read the caption.
And that’s how I found out about Helene Sula’s Instagram for Success course, offered once a year.
Like that curious, first thought of the day about being stuck in the 2460’s, I later realized how a seemingly random scroll through photos would become an answer to a casual prayer.
God really does care about what we care about.
Our unique stories of being hemmed in for a season brought Nicola and I together. I was hemmed in by the weather and she, with Lyme disease. Both of us found connection to community during a forced Sabbath due to sickness.
Honestly, I didn’t believe God really cared that much about my Instagram success.
A course on building a social platform reminded me that a life built on comparison and expectations is empty.
Our most important work in the world is seeing relationships as sacred.
A life that flows without relationship as it’s source, is a life that will be dammed by introspection and dried up with self-doubt.
We calculate value in numbers, followers, paychecks, and titles. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
If Jesus tells us that the evidence of a flourishing life is in the unseen, uncalculated attributes flowing from a life hidden in Christ; that there are no rules and specific procedures that make a heart patient and kind, then why are we creating standards with numbers as a measurement of our worth in the world?
I’ve learned about new apps, practiced editing photos, crafted a new bio, and explored hashtag communities. I became an Insta-groupie on Facebook with a global community of one thousand. My engagement, followers, and comments have increased because of applying Helene’s strategies. But mostly, I’ve enjoyed being myself again after being sick in “not enough-ville.”
I love people. I love forging new friendships. I love praying with women I’ve never met face-to-face. I love learning about new cultures and seeing the world with broad perspective. I love that the Kingdom doesn’t have to look like you or me. I love that the Kingdom does looks like you and me. I love that I can mentor people through a screen and then meet in a café without awkwardness.
Your longing to be known and loved is satisfied in relationship with Christ. And your story matters because it helps others find their place in the world.
Could it be possible that the person you’re competing with the most is some idealized version of you that you can never live up to. Would you be willing to set her free?
Sometimes self-reflection can get in the way. It gets in the way of the Gospel within me. If I spend too much time trying to define myself, it’s easy to forget that I’m free. Emily P. Freeman, The Next Right Thing
Download the FREE printable March 2018 Calendar. Prompts from Chapter 4: Prayers and Epistles in Rhythms of Rest will help you persevere in making rest realistic and remember that relationships matter most.
“Could it be possible that the person you’re competing with the most is some idealized version of you that you can never live up to. Would you be willing to set her free?”
These are true and honest words. They brought tears to my eyes, which means they struck a cord, tapped into something deeper in my heart. Thank you for helping me slow and pay attention to that which lies below the surface.
Darcy, they were convicting too for me the first time I heard Emily Freeman say them on her podcast. I listened to it about 4 times! Thanks for being here.
Love the story of your God-incidence (as opposed to coincidence), discovering Helen’s course at just the right time. Indeed, “God really does care about what we care about.” Also appreciated the reminder: “Our most important work in the world is seeing relationships as sacred.” The hyped-up interest in numbers often clouds that important work. Thank you, Shelly, for sharing from your heart and experience. As always, a beneficial post! P.S. Glad you’re feeling better. Such a nuisance, the flu! (My bout occurred in January.)
Sorry to hear you had the flu as well Nancy. Praying that season is over for us all. I’m ready for Spring, you? Thanks for being here, it’s always so nice to see you here.
This was so encouraging to me, Shelly, because I really don’t care about the numbers, but sometimes I feel like I SHOULD care about the numbers. And maybe it isn’t so bad to do what I can to increase the numbers. (Honestly, I don’t spend much time thinking about this stuff–your post just prompted me.) I probably need to do MORE thinking about the numbers. 🙂 Anyway, thanks for the push. And the call to prayer.
(And also? Have you seen the House Hunters International that Helene and her husband are on? I looked her up after that episode–she’s adorable!)
I’m happy to know you don’t waste a lot of time on this Shelly. You are proof that you can get a book contract without the focus on platform. I haven’t seen that episode but have had many people say it is good. I’ll have to watch it!
This was lovely, Shelly–the connection (and the path that led there), the photos, the growth, the encouragement. Your photos are always so eye-catching, a great launching point for your words.
Thank you Natalie, so happy this post blessed you.
Thanks for your kind words Greg. Allancustom written essays