I’m always intrigued by old pictures taken when life on the frontier was tough and cowboys roamed the west.
What interests me about those pictures is how most everyone isn’t smiling. In fact, they look miserable.
It’s as if they’re not even trying to convince us they’re happy.
We, on the other hand, always have to look happy. We look ecstatic to be doing whatever it is we’re doing, and the smiles show it.
Think back to what was involved in getting that picture for your Christmas card. Before the final shot was taken, three kids had been spanked, one adult was in tears, and mom and dad weren’t speaking.
Miraculously, however, one picture was found that made your family look like they loved each other.
Living like this is exhausting. It’s exhausting to constantly put on the appearance of having the perfect marriage, being the perfect student and having the perfect kids.
The harder we work to appear to have it together, the more tired we become. The more tired we become, the harder we need to work to look like we have it all together.
It’s a grueling cycle.
What makes the problem worse is when we assume God thinks the same way. We assume He cares as much as we do about what other people think.
So we lose our mind when our kid throws a paper airplane from the balcony at church, or pulls the fire alarm in preschool, or shows up to Sunday School with no underwear and announces to the class he’s going commando.
We’re embarrassed because of what people might think.
The good news is that God doesn’t care what people think. In fact, He cares more about what’s going on inside us than what’s going on with the outside of us. He cares about our goals, what we secretly desire and what our minds meditate on.
He knows that the most dangerous things in life come, not from what we look like on the outside, but rather from who we are on the inside.
Jesus said in Mark 7:20-22, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness.”
These are the land mines that ruin marriages, kill friendships and destroy futures. They come from inside us, not outside.
Imagine how different your life could be if you spent the same energy tending to your soul that you do keeping up appearances.
Imagine not worrying about what slips out of your mouth at the church softball game because it’s not inside of you.
Imagine not worrying about being caught in that relationship because the desire for it isn’t inside you.
The outside of us isn’t the problem, the inside is, and I think the people in the old photos knew it.
Dr. J. Phillip Hamm is the senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Palmetto. Reach the church at 941-722-7795 or visit fbcpalmetto.com. Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday’s Bradenton Herald written by local clergy members.