No Self, No Selfie
This might prove too on the nose for many. It might be that I am, as I have heard some of my brothers of color say from the pulpit, meddling and/or trifling.
I don’t really do selfies. This should be apparent by my Instagram, my Facebook profile, and my Twitter feed. I will occasionally indulge my wife by letting her take a picture of me or of us together which is just a regular picture when two people are in it.
Think about this for a moment. There used to be a process, a way, for pictures to be taken. Someone always had to stand on the other side of the lens. Someone had to operate it. And no, I am not saying that we should return to a day where we all had to do tintypes and wood carvings and hand paintings. Although I am sure in Portland that’s exactly where they’re headed. No, it’s not the technology itself that bothers me; it’s the self. It’s the termination of affections.
Termination has a number of meanings and the one I’m using here is to indicate the proverbial end of the line. The road terminates into a dead end. A knife terminates to a pointed end. And the problem with selfies isn’t duckface, though that’s definitely just weird. No, the problem with the selfie is that it directs us ever inward. We turn into the chasm, looking for something. We gaze into the abyss that God placed within us, and we find nothing there, nothing looking back. If you studied a picture you took of yourself critically, it would eventually unnerve you, at best. It’s like listening to your own heartbeat isolated above every sound. It will drive you mad.
We are seeing this happen in realtime. We are seeing this obsession with self pushing us to record and celebrate everything about ourselves. We do it because it offers a teaspoon of joy that we then cast into that inner void. It offers us a breath of respite from the hollow, meaningless world we all live in. Just a breath. Just a single gasp. And then we’re back to running from the crushing presence of existential calamity.
Our generation isn’t new in this. The idea of the selfie predates visual mediums but is most iconically represented in people through the renaissance posing for hours and hours for a portrait of themselves. To hang. In their own home. Where they might see it. But just because a bad idea is old doesn’t somehow justify it.
My heart’s broken and stilted cry should always be, “Look at Jesus!” There are no Jesus selfies. There are no moments of celebrating the hashtag blessed life (I love spelling that out because it makes some of you cringe), that aren’t anything but pale and small things in the light of a God who took my soul out of the grave and into the light.
I like to tell people, and myself, that we’re all telling a story. We’re all saying something. We’re all doing something that matters for eternity. So how many of our lives’ regrets will be that we didn’t record a meal in a picture or take a picture of ourselves? How much of our life will be spent trying to say, “Look at me!”?
…“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” Matthew 16:24-26
Deny himself. The word there is the same word that Jesus says men will use to deny Him before men. It’s the same word as Peter denying Christ. It’s a rejection. So then, can I deny myself? What does that look like? What does it look like to reject myself? Now, hear me, I am not advocating self-hatred or loathing. I am advocating rejection.
I don’t want more of me. I have plenty enough, day by day. I want more of Jesus. So much more. And I want to use every medium, every place I breathe, to bring more of Him against the darkness. The darkness that still hides in the corners of my mind, the darkness that permeates our world. So, to paraphrase John Piper, “Don’t waste your selfies.”