Too much selfie isn't healthy
Updated: Jan 11
In the pursuit of fullness let me turn my attention to my face. My face, and in fact your face as well. You know, the face that you can't stop staring at when you're on Zoom. Don't panic. It's a thing. According to various articles I've read, most of us (except for liars) spend a huge proportion of our time on Zoom (Teams, Skype and Meet are also available) just gazing at our own face.
Me on zoom
Are we all horrid narcissists? Well, yes probably. But most of us are apparently just hugely overstimulated. We can't cope with the loss of the social cues and information we gather from face to face conversation. The loss is so great that the easiest thing to do is just to stare at ourselves.
Also me on zoom
Alongside this there is the continuing battle us content creators (and by that I mean church leaders circa march last year) face on a weekly basis. I'm constantly looking at myself/hearing myself as I record another sermon, or worship track. I then relive this on a Sunday as we broadcast our service. While this is happening live, I'm leading and speaking to a screen with..... ME on it! It's like everything in my pandemic, lockdown, online life is making me stare at myself. And it turns out it has an effect.
In Galatians 2 Paul visits Peter, the great Peter, who has started to bum shuffle away from those smelly Gentiles whilst getting his eats on. He refuses to eat with the gentiles because he has started to forget that it is grace, the free and gracious gift of God, which has saved him, and is heading back to some old ceremonial rules about not eating with non-Jews. How does this happen? Well I think, not that I'm some scholar with 14 letters after his name (it's 6 but who's counting), that Peter has taken his eyes off his friend and saviour Jesus and has start to 'think church'. It's a very subtle shift. A move from worship to building. So Paul rebukes him and reminds us, writing "I do not set aside the grace of God" and all is well again.
This is probably how Paul rebuked Peter
It turns out that recently I've done a bit of a Peter. Here's what happened to me. All the constant looking at myself started to shift my focus from the just worshipping and enjoying Jesus, to 'getting it right'. I starting thinking, "Does that look good enough? Am I happy with the lighting? Is there too much reverb on that?" The shift was subtle but before I knew it I was feeling like building church was my responsibility. I just started to care about the wrong things. My answer to the question, "Is there too much reverb on this?" should have been, "Frankly who gives a toss."
So how did I get out of that place?
Firstly, Jesus gently showed me the shift that had taken place. I usually know because I stop enjoying worship. It becomes something that must be done. I, like Peter, had to repent. "Jesus I'm sorry for making this about the content. It's about you." This was backed up by my sermon recording ordeal the next day...
This is a photo of the studio I've set up in my office...
I did the usual: lights, music stand, camera, press record...check it's recording...yes it's recording, is it recording sound? *shouts loudly* Yes, ok we're good... "Goooood morning Groves Church..." I get to the end of what I think has been a cracking 26 minutes on Abraham and Isaac, only to find the memory card got full after 8 minutes. $%&* $^%. I recompose myself, (I did genuinely say out loud, "Why did you let that happen God?" #firstworldproblems), and go again...
So I finish my final compelling and yet encouraging word and say a smiley but reverent "Amen", *pause, keep smiling* and then go to the camera, YES! It's still recording.
So feeling victorious, and laughing at Satan's feeble attempts to try and stop me the first time, I upload it to my computer.
Wait.... what....?!! Why is it all out of focus? IT'S NEVER ALL OUT OF FOCUS. (Insert words of anger and frustration here).
I was so cross. I like my preaching to come from the heart and feel authentic, so a third attempt, especially feeling as cross as I did, was a no go. I text my wife in order to share the annoyance. She said, (after incredible displays of empathy), "Well just use the blurry one." She might as well have blasphemed. "I can't! It looks awful". (Internal monologue) "Looks. Oh, hang on, that's interesting, why do I care so much about that?"
Needless to say it was this moment that, combined with the day before, moved me back into a place of worship and it all being about Jesus. I decided that maybe all the filming fracas might not be satan after all, maybe it was God.
I felt he wanted me to post the sermon without video, not perfect, and face the imaginary audience who would judge my failure and probably my church as well. (My sermons have an average viewing of about 9 people, so this judgement is highly unlikely). Still it felt brave.
As I made the decision, like Peter, I rediscovered grace. Beautiful grace, Jesus is enough so I don't need to be, grace.
I have written this moment up on my white board in my office just to remind myself. "Today is not about building a church, today is about worshipping Jesus."
(For those interested I just played the audio of the sermon for our livestream, it took nothing away from the message and I didn't have to stare at myself. I might do it again!)
Peace and pace restored
The Psalmist writes, "One thing I ask of the Lord, this only will I seek, that I may dwell in the house of Lord all the days of my life, gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, and seek him in his temple" (Psalm 27:4, emphasis mine). And herein lies the antidote, at least for me. We're having to stare at ourselves a lot at the moment. And we have to be aware that 'too much selfie isn't healthy' (I didn't come up with that by the way, my daughter came home from school saying it once). Can I encourage you to balance it out by 'gazing' at the Beautiful One? Worship him. Praise him. Tell him again how incredible he is. Bow before him. Surrender again.
Jesus loves us. He wants us to connect with him. At the moment, as we're forced to study our own face, let's spend even more learning his. He is the reason. He is everything. We don't need anything but him. He is wonderful. He is faithful. He is worthy. It's all about Jesus.
So if like me, you're currently trapped in the zoom, content creation, look-at-yourself loop, hey it's not really our fault BUT be careful, it's so easy to shift focus away from grace. Gaze upon Jesus' face each day, before opening the laptop to discover you have a huge piece of hair sticking up.