Friday, September 19, 2014

Spiritual Selfies (Why Go To Church, Part 3)

Last week we discussed the question—do you really know the One you're worshiping if you go Lone Ranger worshiper and discard the church as a place to meet God?

Clearly pondering this whole weighty matter.
Today, it gets more personal. Another good question we don't ask is—do we really know ourselves, either? How does the church give us ourselves, our better selves, when we're asking it to do its job? Perhaps more importantly, how willing are we to let it?

Why Go To Church? To See Myself

I have a teenage daughter. In case you don't have one of that species, there is a particular trait of teenage girls you need to know. They take pictures. Of themselves. Constantly. We're not even surprised anymore to see a girl standing in the middle of Target making strange faces into her palm (where the smart phone lies) with no reference to those around her. Not too long ago,we would have found this behavior disturbing enough to warrant concern for her mental health. Now—it's just selfies.

And pondering some more
A funny thing happens when you stare at yourself for too long. You lose all outside reference. Your only compass for what you look like is yourself. At its worst, this turns into eating disorders for girls who see only their flaws. On the other side, it turns into an unhealthy reliance on, and leveraging of, one's looks for value.

When you're the only one in the photo, you have no reference point for who you are and what you're like.

When you're not in a community, you have no reference point for discovering who you are in a larger picture. When you're taking spiritual selfies, you've taken everything out of the picture that could help you measure where you've grown, where you need to, or where you could help someone else.

We're a culture obsessed with taking spiritual selfies.  [tweet this]

And I don't mean we need to be in “community” as in “Sure, I'm I community. I've got lots of friends. (Mostly online.) We talk about deep stuff, dude.They all agree with my opinions, and we all hate the same things. It's great.”

That's cheap community. It's not New Testament community. Not the messy place we see rich and poor, male and female, black and white, coming together and making one beautiful thing out of diversity. The crazy zoo of behavior that needs correcting, correctors who need softening, and grace that needs to cover it all. That's the community of the Bible.
Is this my "we don't like it" face?

We don't like it. It's messy. It challenges us. It changes us. Selfies are infinitely simpler.

But selfies never tell us who we are. Nothing does like wading through the messy stuff with another person--another real person with messy stuff of her own with whom we have to learn our own brand of grace and challenge. Nothing tells us who we are like looking into someone else's perception and seeing what he likes--or doesn't like. Nothing sharpens us like putting down the camera directed at self and taking up the mirror someone else is holding.

It's not comfortable. I've heard those challenging words from time to time. But it's changed me. I discovered things about myself I would have never known if I had believed I had no need of the church to call me out and make me better.

There is a reason grown women do not take selfies.
Why go to church? To see in a mirror what I can't see by myself.  [tweet this].To see a better version of me I can become. To be with people who are trying to become better versions of themselves and help them along the way as they help me. You can try to make a pilgrimage on your own, but why would you? In all of literature, it's done in community. There's a reason for that.

Yes, some churches take advantage of their power to guilt and shame you into changing rather than walk with you into it. But at its best, God intends for it to be the best possible place to journey together because the people there know better than anyone the value of mercy and the power of God's invitation to change.

Continue to take selfies, or accept the challenge to see yourself in the big picture? Change happens in the context of community.

My "I am so done with selfies" face.

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