For some reason, this headline caught my eye among the litany of random Facebook posts. I clicked, not really having any clue of what I was supposed to be looking for. I looked at the group of parade-goers the picture spotlighted. At first, I was confused. All seemed normal: lots of people, kids with candy, an abundance of pointing. And then I saw her.
In the midst of all these people watching an event that required who knows how much time and manpower, there was one lady who actually saw the parade. In that entire group, there was one woman who wasn’t looking at a phone and taking a picture of what was happening. She was watching it happen. She was experiencing it. She was enjoying it.
Selfies and Instagram have become a part of society. Just last week a group of sorority girls made national news when they attended an Arizona Diamondbacks baseball game. Or at least, the announcers made news when they spent several minutes discussing them. And while there is something to be said for grown men not mocking young girls, you can kind of see the temptation. The two minute video skips back and forth between the actual game, and the girls taking pictures of themselves and their food, presumably to share and show others how much they are enjoying said game. A line drive single is hit “and nobody noticed”.
Another recent article brings to light the fact that there have been more deaths due to selfies than sharks in 2015. And granted, the majority of the world’s population is going to be inland and not faced with that particular battle, but still. Still. Really? Some might call it cowardice but if I have to choose between life and an Instagram picture, I’ll choose not dying every time.
Here’s the thing: I am a photographer. I like pictures. Love them. I love the feeling a great picture can evoke. I greatly enjoy capturing little slices of life that can be looked back on years later to remember how life was then. Because I’m also an overly sentimental (non-extreme) hoarder. There are pictures I look back on and smile at a memory. There are pictures I find and remember some long-forgotten person or event and enjoy taking the time to reminisce on times past. (Side note, I’m terrible at packing because I find lots of things and take approximately 17 hours to pack a single drawer. Overly sentimental and all.)
But I’m starting to realize something about myself. In the last few years I’ve taken thousands upon thousands of pictures on my phone. Many of them were to remember. Many were because I wanted to show others. But the vast majority remain lost in some great wasteland on my phone under the category “I should do something with these but I’m probably never going to look at them again.” Which would be totally fine, if it weren’t for the fact that I might have missed some seriously amazing moments while I was looking at life through my screen.
I worry I do the same thing spiritually. That I focus so much on how things look and whether or not I’m finding the right “angle” that I forget to actually pay attention to what’s going on around me. It’s incredibly easy to get absorbed into the day to day of our lives as a whole and specifically our Christianity.
Go to school. Go to work. Do your homework. Pay your bills. Study. Work out. Eat. Make food so that you can eat. Buy food because you don’t have anything to make. Pull up to the Chick-fil-A drive thru because that’s just how it’s going to be today. Do this and that or the other. Before you go to bed read a Bible verse to show you didn’t forget. Mumble a few requests or “thank you”s in prayer before falling asleep.
I sometimes wonder about how superficial our faith is. Pinterest is full of Bible-journaling pictures where someone cutely and ornately decorated their wide margins with Scriptures, but there’s not as much to study what those Scriptures actually mean. Selfies with Bible verses appear on Instagram that seem entirely oblivious to the irony of posting a picture of one’s face along with the reminder that “charm is vain and beauty if fleeting”.
In my life, I spend time planning and organizing and just doing things, but sometimes I forget to actually pay attention and focus on why I’m doing it all to begin with.
Christianity is meant to be shown to the world. We’re meant to not be ashamed and proudly proclaim the gospel. It’s not even a suggestion; that’s basically the reason we’re here. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
But we’re not meant to show the world how great it is to be a Christian without taking the time to actually do and see it for ourselves. We’re not meant to show others how to depend on the Father when we’re too busy and anxious to actually put that into practice ourselves. We can’t teach the Word to a world that doesn’t know it when we don’t know it. We can’t be too busy or distracted to sing and pray and worship and actually build a relationship with God and expect to know Him well enough to teach Him to anyone.
Bible verse tweets and Instagrammed Bible outlines aren’t wrong. We could probably do with more of them. But putting more of yourself into letting people know you’re spending time with God instead of actually spending time with God probably is.
Experience God for yourself. Know Him. Study. Pray. Meditate (an extremely lost and dying art). Worship.
Keep being lights to the world. Just equip yourself so that when you do shine your light on Him, you won’t have a superficial and depleted energy source of your own.