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The un-selfie

The Life Less Traveled

September 25, 2013
When was the last time you took a selfie? You know what those are, right? They're those self-portraits people take with their phones and post on social media. Just hold your phone out at arm's length, point it toward your face and, voila, a selfie is born.

This was a lot harder before the invention of the smart phone. Remember those big, clunky cameras they had in the Old West, the kind with the curtain draped over the photographer's head and the jumbo flash bulb on a stick? If you tried to take a selfie with one of those, you'd end up in the hospital.

I'm guessing Polaroid cameras were a major leap forward in selfie technology. Now, not only could you take a picture of yourself but instantly see the results. Of course, in those days it was a bit tougher to post your selfie on Facebook considering the average computer was roughly the size of Rhode Island.

No, it took the unique combination of the smart phone, social media and a boatload of 21st century narcissism to make the selfie what it is today, a chance to present yourself to the world exactly the way you want.

You see, the beauty of the selfie is that you have total control over how you look. You're the photographer, model and editor all rolled into one. You can re-shoot it a million times over, crop it, filter it and do whatever you want to make yourself look awesome. Then, after you've spent a couple of hours on it, you can post it to Facebook like it's a casual snapshot you just decided to take with a wind machine and studio lighting.

Of course, some people take intentionally silly selfies. Others prefer selfies with friends. However you slice it, though, the selfie is about sharing with the world whatever version of yourself you prefer.

In Jesus' day, there were a group of religious leaders who I'm certain, if they'd owned iPhones, would have been the selfie sensations of their time. They were called the Pharisees, and they were experts in the art of image management. They prayed fancy prayers, made a big deal about how much money they gave in their offering and always tried to get the most important seat at dinner parties.

Jesus said, "Everything they do is done for people to see."

I wonder how many times that describes people like you and me. How much time do we waste trying to impress others or worried about what someone thought?

Whether we're posting a picture on social media or just performing for a real, live crowd, it's easy to get caught up in the opinions of others. It's easy to make every moment a little selfie, always working hard to present ourselves to others in a certain way. This can be an exhausting way to live, always on guard, always self-conscious, always a slave to what other people think.

Jesus knew how dangerous this trap could be, and even when the crowds loved him, the Bible says he never bought into it because he knew the fickle nature of the human heart. The same people who wanted to high-five him one day would be ready to nail him to a cross the next.

That's why the lens of Jesus' life was always pointed away from himself. He continually directed people's focus back to God and didn't put much stock in the approval of man.

Good advice, I think. What if, like Jesus, we replaced all our selfies with God-ies, deflecting attention from ourselves to the One who truly deserves it? What if we stopped worrying how we're perceived and focused instead who we can serve?

It seems the more we focus on God and others, the more we can simply relax and be our true selves, which, ironically is the best selfie of all.

Jason Byerly, a 1990 graduate of Crawford County Junior-Senior High School, is the children's pastor at Southland Christian Church near Lexington, Ky. He and his wife have two daughters. For more, visit www.jasonbyerly.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/jasondbyerly.

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