Thursday, September 17, 2015

Vanity Fair: The Desire to Be Admired

Maybe regular God selfies need to be a discipline in our lives.

The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7

They stood at the scenic overlook with towering, breathtaking waterfalls cascading behind them in the distance. A group of beautiful young women gathered around a selfie stick, posing for a photo shoot before turning to descend the winding steps and behold the magnificence of this natural wonder.

After getting just the right shot, all of the women dispersed except one. She remained, posing and preening, experimenting with just the right position, angle, and perfect shot. I stood transfixed for a moment, along with about 25 other tourists passing by. 

It was as if we were not there at all, as if she stood alone, a model on a photo shoot, with no one but her admiring camera crew present with her. She was gorgeous by any magazine's standards, and for a split second I was mesmerized by her.

By outward appearance, she was perfectly beautiful.

In that moment I felt ugly, old, and completely disconnected from my culture. As she openly pouted her full round lips and smiled a brilliant smile, to no one but herself and her selfie stick, I succumbed to Comparison, the evil thief of peace and contentment everywhere.

With a jolt I came to my senses, and a feeling of dismay replaced my self-bashing reverie. When did it become acceptable for us to preen with an audience? What ever happened to posing in the mirror as long as no one catches you smiling at yourself and checking out your profile admiringly? 

I mean, everyone primps, but when did we lose our sense of shame in being caught being vain?

I walked away feeling old and out of touch, with dusty, out-of-date values. After all, everyone does it now, so what's my problem?

My problem, and that of all mankind, is a heart problem. It is not an external problem.

On my best day, the one on which I look outwardly acceptable to myself, my curly hair is behaving, and I have not eaten too many sweets to feel bloated, on that best day for vanity, if someone looked into my heart they would see a very different picture. 

Inside they would see a woman who must run every day to God to remind herself of who she really is. Who He says she is, not what the world might say if I were measured by how perfect I appear on the outside. You would see a heart in desperate need of a mirror that reflects Truth, a lens that looks with love, upon the ever-diminishing beauty that I have spent so much time trying to perfect.

I wonder what God sees in the heart of the girl on the overlook. Is she as beautiful, confident, and perfect on the inside as she appeared on the outside? Could the contents of her heart dazzle and mesmerize passing crowds with their profound beauty?

Perhaps. There are many people who truly are beautiful on the inside and the outside.

But this desire to be admired begs the question, are we spending so much time gazing at ourselves, trying to find our best pose, that we completely miss the majestic creation of our magnificent God, crashing its thunderous beauty right behind us? 

Have we exalted our outward appearance, our image, above the image of God, which we were created to reflect to others?

Whose image am I reflecting, my own or His?

It seems Vanity Fair has come to town, and we can choose to be one of the marchers in the Parade, one of the admirers lining the street, or, most radical of all, one of the Invisible Ones who instead choose to groom and cultivate the beauty that does not fade.

Does that mean we never take a selfie? Of course not. Selfies are the new photography. But if a selfie blinds me to my true self, projecting an image that I cannot even sustain over time, an image that condemns my friends and misleads others to think my life is perfect when it really is not, a mere image, then maybe I need to put my camera aside for a moment and get alone with God for a real selfie.

Maybe regular God selfies need to be a discipline in our lives. Selfies where we bring our hearts before the One who examines them and creates in us beauty that never fades.

Let's live authentic lives, transparent instead of photo-shopped. Let's live vulnerable lives, open with our struggles instead of pretending we are just fine. Let's post the selfies where our hair isn't perfect and our house is a wreck to show people we live real lives just like them.

We need each other more than ever. And our preening is blocking the path to authentic relationships.

If you are tired of all the posing, take a selfie just as you are today and send it to a friend who needs to see you are not perfect. Leave your house a mess the next time your neighbor comes over. Dare to give someone a ride in your toy and french-fry-strewn mommy van without cleaning it up. Dare to be real.

If you have found freedom in being your real self in front of the onlookers, share with us your story in the comments below.

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