National Days, I’ve felt, should serve a specific purpose. Sometimes we get busy with life and need a reminder of something that could slip our attention. I’m thinking of an illness or segment of society that deserve recognition and our prayers.
However, there are subjects I don’t need to be reminded of to appreciate. Let’s start with National Doughnut Day (First Friday in June). The fact I have a Krispy Kreme app on my phone shows I need no alerts on appreciating doughnuts. Today, June 22, is National Onion Rings Day, so indulge. Some say Baptists are divided, but surely we can all get behind National Fried Chicken Day on July 6.
Yesterday, June 21, brought National Selfie Day. I was completely unaware this day was any different from any day before or the rest of the year. Selfies have become a worldwide phenomenon since entering the mainstream in the early 2000s.
The first selfie, since you were wondering, is credited to Robert Cornelius. In 1839 the young photographer took the lens off his camera, ran to a point in front of it, held the position for a minute, then ran back and covered the lens. People may first associate the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia with legends of her escape after her father, Nicholas II, and her family were murdered by the Bolsheviks in 1918. Four years earlier, the 13-year-old became the first teenager to take a selfie. She used a method still popular today – no kidding – standing in front of a mirror.
Yes, I’ve taken a few selfies. Literally, a few. As best I can tell, I’ve posted four or five to Instagram over the last three years, almost all of them are with a family member or friend. On those rare instances, though, I’m no different from anyone else. I try to smile nice. I hope to strike a casual look. If it’s in-frame, I suck in my gut.
So while we may think of selfies as a narcissistic view of expression, I’m wondering just how much the practice is about the audience. Instead of the person in the image, it’s really about our desire to please the viewer.
That desire isn’t limited to selfies. In our families, our marriage, and yes, our churches, we want to look our best. It’s not my wish to advertise how my wife and I had an argument over guacamole this week (Not us, I mean, some friends, we heard.). So, I’ll instead post something about her being a hottie and our 20 years of wedded bliss.
But something gets lost in that approach. People aren’t seeing the real me; they’re seeing what I project.
One tool for projecting that image comes through filters, which when applied to a photo gives it a certain look. It can fix lighting or remove blemishes, perhaps make us a little thinner in appearance. Something doesn’t remain in its original state after going through a filter.
A 2016 Pew Research study revealed that a large majority (83%) of those looking for a new church do so based on the quality of sermons. Granted, what type of sermon could be determined as “quality”? The closest Pew could get was saying that “preaching from the Bible,” churches with “conservative Christian values,” and are “positive on Civil Rights” were in the 29% who said “Other factors” were important in finding a church home.
An April 2017 Gallup poll cleared that up somewhat, where 76% of respondents said sermons teaching about Scripture were desirable. Just behind that, 75% called sermons helping one “connect religion to your own life” a major factor in choosing a church.
When it comes to a clearer picture of our lives, the Bible is the lens. Those poll results show it as something we all know, but can get squeamish about approaching. After all, when we look at ourselves through the lens of Scripture, we see just how far we fall from a holy God. We get closer, uncomfortably so, to sin’s weight and Christ’s sacrifice to pay for it.
Unfortunately, I realize this every day. It could be as simple as my reaction from dropping a can of green beans on my toe. My flesh has a way of reminding me I need a savior.
But the same Scripture that gives this fact also tells of the grace given to even someone like me. It applies to so many who feel unworthy when comparing themselves to someone else’s image. That grace applies when the plans we have for life change and we’re wondering where we went wrong. Though a picture can last forever, our circumstance don’t have to.
When applied through that filter, it becomes good news for the self, indeed.