I’m actually not that great of a Facebook stalker. I don’t really go into profiles, but I do go into certain groups because maybe I’m an admin for a few of them. Therefore, the extent of my “Facebook stalking” is whatever shows up on my News Feed. I suppose I stalk my News Feed.
Inevitably, being the age that I am, it is the. prime. time. to get married and start having kids. Because an abundance of love overflows and love is never kept to self, it only makes logical sense that husbands and wives share their love and joy with others. On Facebook. Cool wedding pictures!
Then comes the baby in the baby carriage. The love of husband and wife is so strong, so real, that it results in a third person. That is so profoundly biological and Catholic-ly theological/philosophical. Undoubtedly, a barrage of totally adorable pictures follows on Insta-Face-gram-book. First steps. First bath. Here’s our baby with our other babies (ie. dogs). Oh look at this picture with our baby wearing the cutest clothes evurrrrr. Teehee, our baby made a funny face (MEME DAT!). Aw, look at our baby dressed in collegiate wear!
With that said…
Dear Facebook friends,
I’m so frustrated with your postings of your adorable baby (or babies, if you have been generous in your love for your spouse) on Facebook and Instagram.
Look, I get it. You want to share with your friends and family this joy that you and your spouse have. I get it. You want to preserve these precious memories of your child so that you can easily go back on your Facebook Timeline years later and have that nostalgic moment remembering that precious memory. I get it. Now you have blackmail-worthy pictures of your child to show their friends when they’re in high school or college or wedding day. Whatever your reason, I get it.
First thing. Did a bunch of you get together about 9 months ago (+/- few months) and collectively decide to have babies right around the same time? Because my Facebook News Feed is totally inundated with a wave of babies‘ pictures right now. Post, after post, after post. Babies. Babies. Babies. And let’s not forget the sonogram pictures too. And because y’all may or may not have gotten together about 9 months ago and collectively decide to birth at the same time, there are a good number of you posting baby pictures. At least I’m not forced to keep looking at the same cute, adorable baby at any point during my typical News Feed stalking. Hey, variety helps.
Second thing. Not only are you posting baby pictures, but you’re posting baby announcement pictures, baby-in-the-womb-growing progress pictures, and other fancy creative ways to posting pictures about your baby. What deep bowels of Pinterest have you been perusing? Not that there’s anything wrong with that. And these kinds of pictures are usually not one-and-done. No, no! They’re like a weekly (dare I even say in some cases, daily?!) update. More status-ing about it all. More pictures. More frustration for me.
Third thing. What’s the deal with you who are married yet don’t have kids? It’s frustrating because I practically expect some sort of generous, overflowing profound love that results in a baby that merits posting about it Facebook/Instagram. And yet I’m left with nothing. The anticipation is killer and that’s frustrating. Look, you and your spouse might have legit reasons to not have kids right now…but come on, it’s been a few years. Please, I beg you–add to my frustration!
I guess this all begs the question of why this is all frustrating to me.
It’s simply this–I hope to one day be able to post my own kids’ pictures to bless your Timeline with their absolute adorableness. No, the posting of my own kids’ pictures means that I have kids–that’s the underlying desire there. And having kids means that I have a beautiful wife willing to put up with me, and together we’re willing to sacrifice our selves for our kids. That’s the other underlying desire at play here.
Don’t get me wrong. This is one of those, “It’s not you, it’s me!” moments. I’m not angry that you are posting seemingly a constant stream of every waking/sleeping moment of your baby (or babies) on Facebook and Instagram. I share in your joy, and I just want to thank you for being such an awesome witness to life by sharing with us these joyous moments captured and shared. In all sincerity, thank you! I cannot call myself Catholic (and pro-life) if I were to truly abhor seeing your pictures pop up in my News Feed.
My frustration with seeing all these pictures makes a good example regarding how a genuine, good desire can easily be twisted. The desire to have a wife and kids is definitely a good thing, but somehow in recent weeks, I’ve cultivated a pronounced sense of jealousy and envy. The thing about swimming in jealousy (auditory pun) is it really clouds my sense of viewing this good desire with a pure heart. Thoughts like “I should have that too! Pfft!” or “UGH, I really want this but I’m nowhere near to having that!” float about my mind like a banner across the sky dragged by a propeller plane. You know, such banners float in the air slowly and you can’t help but keep looking. Through jealousy and envy, this good desire gets twisted and it begins to turn ugly. It’s hard to deal with or to fight myself to untwist it all.
I met with my spiritual director the other day. He’s a Catholic priest and a former pastor of a parish that used to be five minutes away from work, which made meeting with him previously convenient. I had some extra time this weekend so I met up with him at his newly assigned parish. He took me out to coffee at a local Whole Foods. I’m a fan of talking about Catholic things in public settings.
Without really getting into my real purpose of talking to him, on his own he talked about embracing crosses. He shared with me how he faces challenges at his new parish, and these challenges are his crosses that he must embrace. I related that to myself because this frustration I have is a cross for me, indeed. I’ve just been handling it wrong because my response has been jealousy and envy. I guess I should have known when I didn’t take my coffee black…
When we started talking more about my frustration, he brought up Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s idea of ego and I. Fulton Sheen writes, in Lift Up Your Heart:
The ego is what we think we are; the I is what, in fact, we are. The ego is the spoiled child in us–selfish, petulant, clamorous, and spoiled–the creation of our mistakes in living. The I is our personality made to the image and likeness of God! The lives of the two selves cannot be lived simultaneously. If we attempt to do so, we suffer remorse, anxiety, and inner dissatisfaction (3).
Somehow my ego has been inflated lately in regards to wanting a wife and kids. And somehow I let my ego take over me. The genuine desire became “I should have a wife and kids” which on its own, seems like a totally understandable way to think about it. But the problem with that is it doesn’t leave room for God’s will. “I should have a wife and kids” pretty much says that I’m in control and that I forge my own destiny. But such an idea is largely inconsistent with how my life has worked out so far. God is in control, not me. God’s will be done, not JD’s. Previous good desires for good things such as getting into great organizations and getting a job has not worked out in my favor solely because of my own hand, but definitely by God’s hand on His time. Let’s have story time with JD on those at another time.
Long story short, after talking with my spiritual director, I’ve realized that my ego needs to fade away. Or just die. My starting point for discerning marriage and kids shouldn’t be “I should have a wife and kids” but rather, “Lord, what do you want me to do in order to serve You in the best way?” This allows my I to shine without being overshadowed by my ego. I’m grateful that I spent the time with my spiritual director because I have forgotten what I’ve learned regarding the ego and I from Fulton Sheen (which this book, Lift Up Your Heart, was my first assigned reading by my spiritual director a few years ago).
So, I humbly ask for your prayers that God’s will be done for my life. The challenge (and awesomeness) of being a single, Catholic man is that there are options to living out life to the fullest, but it’s a process of discernment of where God is calling me to, whether the generous single life, the priesthood, religious life, or marriage. I have an idea, but sometimes I wonder if it’s His too. Inevitably, I will suffer for whatever direction He calls me to but by His own example through the Passion, death, and resurrection of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, my suffering can be redeemed.
Again, thank you to you-who-post-pictures-of-your-babies-on-Facebook. In an untwisted state, such pictures resonate well with me because I hope to perhaps one day be able to post my own pictures (and my wife can too). And what great joy it is to share your joys with all of us on your Friend Lists!
And a special shout out to all mothers, who I can rightfully blame today for posting pics of their babies because it really did happen that they are mothers.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Sheen, Fulton J. Lift Up Your Heart. Ligouri, Missouri: Ligouri Publications, 1950. Print.