Misrepresenting J M

I experienced a little dust-up with a Facebook friend recently. The subject of the dust-up isn’t important, and everything is okay now, but the experience triggered some thoughts about how I’m perceived and what some of my failings are.

Let it be noted that I am still trying to figure out how to integrate Facebook into my world again. I’m still not particularly happy to be back there. And the thing about Facebook is that you’re only really noticed if you’re 1) creating/participating in controversy or 2) sharing Pinterest-perfect lifestyle posts. Controversy gives me a bellyache, and I stink at Pinterest-perfect. I’ve said before–as a wife and mother, I’m a lot more Erma Bombeck than June Cleaver or Martha Stewart.

So in trying to find things to share, I share things that I like, things that speak to my interests and beliefs, things that I think might be helpful to others, etc. I share TED Talks. I share the occasional writing-related article. I share silly grammar cartoons and coffee pictures. And I share posts related to my faith.

What gets the mosts attention/likes? The coffee pictures. My occasional picture of my dog or kids. Maybe a good quote. And a status about something “happy happy joy joy” in my family.

Anyway. This blog post is not about the inanity of Facebook.

Rather, this blog post is about how I communicate my faith to other believers.

Here’s the thing. I’m not very good at sharing why I believe some of the things I believe. I don’t know how to explain it except to give some examples.

When I say that I have some concerns about the culture of “courtship” and the way it’s currently in vogue to push our teens away from dating, somehow, I come across as promoting licentious behavior.

When I say that I have issues with the way we teach God’s will in Evangelical circles, people seem to think that I mean there’s no room for God to work in our lives or that God can’t reveal His will in any way, shape or form.

And when I say that I have an intellectual faith rather than an emotional one, I somehow communicate that I have no room for emotion in my walk with Jesus and that I only have head knowledge.

What do these things have to do with the dust-up and Facebook? Well . . . I started thinking about these things because of the dust-up, and it seems like a lot of these misconceptions about me end up resulting from written interactions (like those that occur on Facebook or in e-mail).

I have to be candid–I’m not sure how to fix these notions.

I can say that I have no intention of promoting licentious behavior in our young people. I think sexual purity is vitally important to our material, emotional, and social well-being in this world. I can clarify that I absolutely leave room for God to speak however He wants to speak in this world. I can tell folks that I have had many, many, many days of pouring out my heart to Jesus in prayer–carpet-fiber-up-the-nose days, in fact, when the only posture adequate before the bone-crushing awesomeness of the Throne of Grace was one of utter prostration (and on those days, if I could have made myself thinner to melt into the floor, I would have).

But it seems hollow to say these things. It doesn’t ring true. It feels like I’m attempting to justify myself and that maybe then I sound like I’m speaking from both sides of my mouth.

It’s a little unnerving that so many of these misunderstandings occur in writing. I worry that maybe I’m not as good at communicating in the written word as I should be for . . . well, for a writer. If these things occur in live conversation, it’s a lot easier to make myself understood. Sometimes. I still get into a lot of trouble on the courtship issue . . .

I suppose the first question is, “why do I care?” And I’m not sure how to answer that except to acknowledge that perhaps I’m more tender-hearted than I care to admit. It hurts to know that I’ve misrepresented myself in such a way as to make people completely misunderstand who I am.

The second question is, “how do I deal with it?” And I can only come up with two possibilities–either stop engaging people on anything where I might potentially be misunderstood, or get better at ignoring the misconceptions. The third possibility–improving how I represent myself–needs to happen either way, but that’s a long process. And even so, I’m not sure I’ll ever really be very good at it.

For the moment, I’m just choosing not to engage. On Facebook, if I post something that might be controversial for some reason, I am choosing to just ignore comments that would draw me into a bad position. If I see a post that might have drawn a comment from me in the past, I am choosing to keep scrolling. It’s the social media version of nodding and smiling–which is, coincidentally, the way I’m choosing to deal with real life conversations.

I suppose this may not be a very interesting blog post. It’s a little bit like the ones I posted in the very beginning. This is me, working out my salvation with fear and trembling, perhaps. It seems like it’s a daily struggle to figure out how to navigate the world when you’re a human oddity.

Perhaps the best I can hope for is to represent Christ well. In that sense, it doesn’t matter what others think of me. It only matters that Jesus is proud of me. So maybe I misrepresent myself, or maybe others think I’m hypocritical, Pharisaical, hard-nosed, unemotional, or even heretical. Maybe that’s unimportant if I’m careful to speak with wisdom, knowledge, and good character.

Ultimately, I’m an ambassador for Jesus Christ. While ambassadors have to be mindful of how they comport themselves, sometimes, they do have to speak hard truths, and they can occasionally misrepresent themselves. But as ambassadors, they have to care less about how they are perceived and more about how the governments they represent are perceived.

I’ll say one thing, though–It would be easier to be a good ambassador for Christ if I weren’t so human.

Till next we meet . . .

J M

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