BY CHARLOTTE O
When I think of curators, I think of museums and sweater vests or timid (but gorgeous) damsels in distress who help our heroes in heist movies. However, the word curate made the leap into common vernacular some time ago, and is now a selling point for subscription services that claim to save you time by showing you what is best suited for your interests. Sometimes this is exactly what we’re looking for, whether it’s music, TV shows, or humour websites. Who has time to go through the millions of pieces of unique content created for our information and entertainment?
It happens in more subconscious ways too, for example, in the mysterious Facebook algorithm that tends to show us more of what we “like” and insulate us from the rest. I’m very thankful for the “unfollow” button on Facebook that allows me to not see certain people’s posts, even though I know they’d like to maintain the social media connection. Yet these things may be subtly influencing how I order my life. Setting our opinions aside; why were the results of the recent U.S. election so shocking to so many people? Because most of us live in a bubble where we are only shown things we agree with, and are only connected to people who think like us. And those few people that we get into Facebook arguments with? Well, they are probably on the fringe, right? There is danger in only listening to those we agree with, and danger in being quick to dismiss other points of view without examining the true reasons or motivations behind them.
I’ve talked before about social media and trying to become more authentic in who we are both online and offline. But I want to take a different approach here and talk about how and why we choose to curate our lives. Whether it’s in church or online, there are sides of us that we prefer others see first. Maybe that’s because we (often rightly) fear judgment. Unfortunately, even though we worship a God of love, more often than not his people are not as quick to accept others.
We worship a God who chooses to fellowship with sinners, and yet, we like to pretend that only applies before we get saved. We lift up the story of the prodigal son, we preach salvation for the lost, but once they’ve made that decision we expect a constant show of perfection. It permeates the way we talk about sin. Or don’t talk about it. Ever notice that the only sins we seem to talk about are the ones we used to have (but have now overcome) or the ones we are “struggling” with? It’s like in a job interview when you’re asked “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” and you feel like you have to come up with a weakness that is really a strength: Sometimes I just get too passionate about my work. I work so hard that I forget to take time for myself. We all know that these statements are not that authentic and not even likely to get you a job, but they seem great for getting you a spot on a church committee or worship team. When a church cares more about what you can do for it than who you are becoming, it opens the door to masks, inauthenticity and so many other kinds of falseness.
So yes, the pressure to perform—to curate our lives—does come from outside. It comes from competition with those around us, from communities that are only accepting on the surface, and from a performance-based society. Yet these things can only rule us if we are living from a place of insecurity and incompleteness. If we believe that people are judging us all the time, and that we must perform in order to win God’s approval, then we will spend our energy curating our lives into an exhibit of the past. We will take people on tours of the best parts while glossing over the failures, or we have a centerpiece of our gloriously sordid history that is now so far from the sparkling portrait you see before you. But unfortunately, such exhibits can only show the dead, not the living.
Curation is not necessarily all bad, but I would argue that it’s not enough. It’s only a starting point. Even the four gospels are curated stories written for specific audiences. They inform, support, and complement each other by filling in some of the gaps, but as the book of John concludes, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25). These accounts are only signs pointing us to Jesus, but reading the gospels are no substitute for knowing Jesus personally and having a relationship with him. In the same way, if we want to stop curating our lives and start living them it needs to start with the stories we tell ourselves. It starts with us owning both our strengths and our flaws, and not worrying about what others may think. But this requires a leap of faith that encompasses the whole person. Is that a leap you’re ready to take?
I'm Charlotte O. I'm currently working with a non-profit organization in Taiwan where I teach, lead English Bible studies, write educational materials, train teachers, pose for pictures, and a bunch of other stuff too. I'm originally from Canada, spending significant amounts of time in all three westernmost provinces. I don't really know where to call home anymore, but that's ok, because I'm a citizen of heaven. I've learned that life overseas is not as exotic as people may think, but life with God is a daily adventure. I'm excited to join Bold Cup as a 'foreign correspondent.' I’ll try to keep my posts in English though. Check out more of Charlotte's articles.
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