Surface Issues


Have you ever been around someone you knew was focused completely on themselves but were acting as though they weren’t?  It may be the person who nodes when you tell them about a bad day, but forgets what you said just a few seconds prior and quickly changes the subject to themselves.  Or, maybe the person who wants to be near you because of something you could do to make them look good.

I would suggest that we’ve all experienced someone who was self-absorbed, self-centered, or vain.  Typically, those attributes show themselves more in younger people than those who are over 50.  By the time you hit that age, you’ve had most of that knocked out of you; just by living life.

While working at a church in Southern California, my boss (the Sr. Pastor), mentioned to me in his office that he thought one of the singers was ‘Plastic’.  Being young and naïve, I was confused.  In fact, I thought to myself, ‘Is he saying they are cheap?’  I couldn’t figure it out until another associate pastor explained to me that it means, ‘Pretty on the surface but not much going on inside’. 

I will admit that I was taken back by the pastor’s comment once I learned what it meant (just a little judgmental if I don’t say so myself).  Even though it wasn’t becoming of a pastor and a poor role model, later in my life I understood more of what he was saying.

There are those in this life, and even in the church, who aspire more than anything else to be famous, beautiful, or rich, that they neglect their own personal mental, emotional, and spiritual development.  The sad truth is that, in America, it’s becoming an epidemic. 

I recently took a break from Instagram for that very reason; most of those who are posting photos (not my family & friends) are trying to be the next ‘Instagram Star’.  Some fly all over the world accumulating loads of debt just to get that selfie photo in front of a famous beach, rock, or over a cliff.   Nearly every day we hear of one of these people being killed because of the risk they’re taking just to get ‘The shot’ that will go viral. 

Our culture is driving us to focus so much on fame and appearances that it’s leading to an explosion of people with eating disorders, augmenting their body parts, and suffering from depression caused by a sense that they will never live up to this false image.  My question is where will it all end?  We must battle this ‘Plastic’ surface-focused culture with truth, humility, and by seeking out opportunities to serve others. 

During my time in the Bay Area, one of the things I would do was serve in a local homeless shelter downtown in San Francisco.  A local high school had a community service program that required each student to have at least 100 hours of service before they could graduate.  Often, to help them get their hours in, the school would bus kids to the shelter where they would spend their Saturday serving meals to people who just came off the street.  I saw many of them transformed in a short amount of time by the experience, believe me.

The first step to change is realizing we need to change.  It may take a dramatic event for some to realize they are self-absorbed.  Some may never realize it and live their entire life expecting others to serve them or to raise them up because they are somehow more ‘Gifted’ or beautiful.  

For me, God has a way of keeping me humble.  He knows, and reminds me often, when I may give myself one too many looks in the mirror, feel a little too good about myself when complimented, or just obsess about my life’s dreams.   Over the years life has also humbled me (many times). 

Yet, at my lowest, most humbling moments, I felt that was where I found God the most.  It wasn’t my gift He wanted; it was my heart.  It wasn’t money or even my ‘Not so great’ looks either (joking). God simply wanted me and, even more importantly, He wanted me to serve others. 

When we’re at that place where we give everything to Him is when He will take it and give it back to us in a way we could never have expected, because that’s just what He does.  When we lose our lives, for Him, we will gain life; life eternal…

Reflections


If you’re like me, the older you get the less you want to look in the mirror.  Some young people spend hours checking their face, their hair, their muscles, and even taking selfies in front of it.  Me, no way.  Sure, the close-up mirror is good for a few things, but there’s no need to spend countless hours looking at myself only to be reminded of how age is creeping up on me more and more every day.

Mirrors have been around for thousands of years, although not like our modern mirror which has been around for only a couple hundred years.  That fact that they have been around so long only tells me that people were the same then as they are now.  They were conscientious of their appearance.  Or, they just loved looking at themselves which is more of what we find in our culture today.

Being conscientious isn’t a bad thing.  In fact, I’m probably one of the most conscientious people I know.  There’s just something inside of me that is constantly concerned about what others around me might be thinking about practically everything.  Call me insecure or naïve, but that trait has been helpful in sales and it goes a long way in keeping the Mrs. happy too.  Just saying.

What if we could take the same conscientiousness that we feel about ourselves when we look in the mirror and turn it inward?  Meaning, what if we concerned ourselves more about how we looked on the inside than how we looked on the outside?

Over the course of my life I’ve made a habit of not only looking at my face in the mirror but looking at my eyes and my soul too.  Because the eye is the window of the soul, one can often tell how they’re really feeling on the inside by looking at them instead of their smile.  It may be difficult to do but peering into one’s own soul can be telling and humbling.

Sometimes I see vanity, pride, anger, emotional fatigue, and selfishness.  Other times, especially after praying in the morning, I can see God’s light, an aura of peace, and a soul at rest.  Looking into the mirror before prayer certainly can be a motivator for me to turn around and get on my knees to pray for sure. 

If we don’t like what we see when we’re looking into the mirror of our soul, the good news is that we don’t have to stay that way.  There is One we can turn to who will wash the stains, cleanse away the anger, show us His beauty instead of our vanity, and reveal His humility instead of our pride.  He will fill us with His peace and His light so the next time we gaze into that mirror, we will see more of Him and much less of us…

Love always