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There I was, just sitting on my couch, when the ducks in dresses appeared.
Not literally. Unfortunately.
Rather, through that medium of all things weird and wonderful – Instagram.
I spend a lot of time on Instagram. Too much, probably. I’ve heard all the stats about how such apps are affecting our attention spans, and how Instagram presents unrealistic versions of life that make us feel bad about our own. I’m sure my brain would be better served by reading or going for a walk than scrolling through hundreds of videos and pictures.
But man. I just really love Instagram.
Because Instagram presents me with a video of ducks walking around in evening gowns and top hats. Thus, the discovery of the Pied Piper Duck Show, part of Sydney’s Royal Easter Show, where, for over thirty years, white feathered models have shown off day wear, evening wear, and wedding outfits, parading them for the near 900,000 visitors who vote on their favourite outfit.
My world is so much better for knowing such an event exists.
Instagram introduced me to the artwork of Noj Barker, whose painstakingly created dot masterpieces require more attention than I could ever hope to have (because as has already been established, I spend too much time on Instagram).
Instagram is where I discovered what is now my favourite soup ever – a potato pasta soup made by @britacooks, whose meal tutorials make me feel like a professional chef in my galley kitchen.
On Instagram I get to live vicariously through the adventures of Dean and his cat Nala, as they cycle around the world.
Instagram is where just a twenty-second clip of Friends can make me smile after a long day.
And Instagram is where I see videos of people surprising their loved ones after years apart, and puppies growing up alongside babies, and spouses snort laughing after a series of escalating pranks.
Which is all to say – in a world where a lot of the news isn’t good, Instagram can be a good reminder that there’s still good in the world.
There’s still love, and beauty, and silliness, and kindness, and art, and story, and laughter.
A few weeks ago, I was preaching on the end of the Joseph story, when he reveals himself to his brothers and says, “It’s been God all along!” After years of misery and wilderness, he could tell a story of God’s goodness and providence and presence.
That week I’d had a lot of conversations with people about the state of the world, and a few times I heard some version of this question: “Is it that the world is so much worse than it was, or that we’re so much more aware of all the bad things?”
As a student of history, I feel more confident in the latter. There’s always been misery and wilderness, but now news of the misery is immediately at hand, updated by the minute, available on every screen in the house.
It’s all too easy to become overwhelmed by the misery.
And yet, in the midst of that which is troubling, in the midst of the misery and wilderness, we believe in a God who holds the whole world in his hand, and blesses it with his goodness and his grace. We believe there is light in the darkness. Joy amidst the sorrow. Beauty amidst the ugliness.
The call of the Church, then, is two-fold: to go into those places of misery and wilderness as God’s hands and feet, and to be storytellers…pointing people to signs of the presence of a good and faithful God.
And, leaning on a theology of common grace and general revelation, why can’t Instagram be a place where that happens? An avenue God can use to remind us that there is goodness in the world, using the stories and silly antics of believers and non-believers alike, to be signposts of his love, joy, and beauty?
I mean, if ever there was a signpost of God’s joy and beauty, I think it’s a duck in a Victorian-era dress.
So yes. Instagram might be doing not-great things to my brain.
But it does wonders for my heart.