What Instagram taught me about God

August 27th, 2015

Did you hear the news? Instagram is no longer requiring photos to be perfectly proportioned squares. Now you can upload photos in portrait and landscape… and square as well if you like the simplicity of not having one more thing to decide when you take a photograph.

Besides the fact that Instagram is owned by Facebook, the square rule has been one of the reasons I've preferred apps like Google Photos and Flickr.

But think about this: the simplicity of the square format is one of the things that made Instagram so successful. You don’t have to figure out whether portrait or landscape is best. One aspect ratio fits all. And photos display neatly and consistently on your Instagram page and everywhere else.

Many people like boundaries and they also like simplicity. But for a while now, Instagram users have found workarounds to the square rule. That’s why you see the weird black or white padding on so many Instagram photos. These photos follow the letter of the law: they’re square. But they don’t follow the spirit of the law, because they’re not really square. They’ve been shoehorned to fit the right format. The powers that be at Instagram figured out that people like some flexibility. So they relaxed the square requirement.

This reminds me a little of Christianity. How many times have we put God in a box — or a square if you will — for simplicity’s sake? How often do we use our pet doctrines to make God more understandable, more accessible, more predictable or less dangerous?

Boundaries are a good thing unless they keep us from experiencing God’s fullness. And sometimes our doctrine and theology become so rigid, we risk not seeing the entire picture.

But we certainly don’t want to have no standards at all. That would be even worse. Thankfully Christians have the Holy Spirit and each other to help us find the right balance.

The Holy Spirit doesn’t always make things simpler. But he does make our faith experience a lot richer.

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