The Social Mirror
I spent this evening in a Zoom call with a senatorial candidate’s prayer team – in Florida. Only one person knew me (he’d organized the call). I wasn’t teaching or recruiting donors. The candidate wasn’t even on the call until the very end. It wasn’t even for an election in my state. The only benefit was to love on people as I had the opportunity. To pray. To share and support.
If anything, it was one of the rare opportunities to deliberately gain nothing. To quietly give. To honor with my time. It’s hard to even find such a thing in our world today, isn’t it? Everything has an angle, an agenda, a benefit. This is not God’s heart. There is a better way. Let’s back up for context…
I have read of how the ancients (let’s not assume they’re wiser or better just because they lived earlier, okay? That’s not the point.) who pursued a deeper life focused on God would often go months or years without ever seeing their own reflection. They saw the need for primping as prideful. They would say, “Why do I need to see how I appear to others when I have a life all about seeing and knowing God more?”
Interestingly, the “selfie generation” is a social media phenomenon. We have gone from primping for hours in the 80s to selfies in the 00s, to “social reflection” ad nauseam today. It’s not only how good we look in the mirror, but now it’s also how good we look in the social mirror: How affirmed we can be from the masses. We not only must see how good the highlights and eyebrow trimming look, but we must also snap photos of ourselves in every context – from what we are eating to what is happening around us and who is with us. And now, we must see that we look good to everyone else who witnesses these things by a hundred “likes” and “shares” of what we are doing and thinking, where we are going and what we are eating.
The world is screaming for attention, and selling attention for affirmation in return. Looking at ourselves always turns into looking for comparisons. That’s one tiny step from justification by condemning others. Welcome to the age of “social pharisaicalism”.
We went from mirror time to selfie time to social media time: from affirming our own appearance to getting others to affirm our appearance, to ultimately needing others’ affirmation of every thought in our head and activity in our day.
But, stealing a lesson from the ancients, I might ask, “Why do I need to see how I look – in your eyes and thoughts and opinions – when my life is all about seeing and knowing God more?”
Paul really wasn’t kidding when he said the mindset in the flesh is death. Needing something from the world is like trying to suck life from a system that is sucking life from me. But as Paul offered hope in looking to the Spirit, so can we: focusing on the spiritual reality of who we are from Him, as His gaze effusively whispers love to our hearts we have little need for empty striving from the broken cistern of worldly affirmation. His love, not our comparative success in any way, sets us free from the world’s tyranny.
My friends, whatever you might affirm about me (whether it speaks of God or of me), it should have little sway on my heart if I am fully invested in God’s economy of grace. The divine validation of His attentiveness, His direction, His adoration, His provision, His adoption and so much more by grace alone would make all the faux significance and quasi-security of the world pale in comparison.
Looking upon God and His gracious countenance, we need little of anyone else’s gaze, much less approval, upon us. The truth of who we are in Him really does set us free.
Instead of wanting to see how we look in our own eyes, in another’s eyes, or in others’ opinions drawn from all our own thoughts and activities – the “social-mirror life” screaming for value and validation – let us know God’s incredible value of us, know His amazing heart and power toward us in all things, and all we have and are in Him, to the praise of His grace.
When our Father said of Christ, “This is My Son, in whom I am well pleased,” He broadcasted to the world the very pleasure by grace in relationship He has for you in Jesus.
Don’t perform. Rest in relational security that in Christ, you too are His beloved child with whom He is well pleased.
Maybe today is the day we stop living to earn security and significance from others and begin living by grace from the pleasure, power, and provision of our Father.
What would our emotional health with family and friends be if we consistently looked to Him instead of self and others for our affirmation and value?