Last week I started a little Instagram project. For 10 days I chose to post "bad selfies". Each day I took 5 photos and I simply posted what I thought was the worst of the 5.....the total opposite of what we would normally do with selfie posting right?
Oddly enough my bad selfie project stemmed out of a conversation with a good friend about church community....
Let me first state, I do love my church family, past and present, but if I'm really honest, I find the church way easier to love when the people completely drop the phoney "I'm a good Christian act" and are simply real.
Over the years of being actively involved in church life, I'll admit that I've often struggled a lot with the culture. Mainly because there's just a whole lot of surface level superficiality and mask wearing, both intentional and unintentional. (Don't get me wrong there are some "real" people at church, which has helped to keep me hopeful.) Even when we acknowledge the phoniness, we somehow still find ourselves engaging in it. You'd think that the pristine, clean, surface we put on would make others feel comfortable, after all, most of us appreciate aesthetically polished, put together, and pretty. At church and with fellow believers it always makes me feel really uncomfortable and it always has. The pretty, smiley, cleaned up act is just SO counter the true message of Christianity. By hiding the truth about ourselves we completely undermine the basis of our belief - grace through faith in a perfect God, not earned grace through our own perfection. The real ugly truth? The "good Christian" act all flatly points to hypocrisy - a hypocrisy that dishonours and diminishes a God who is nothing but perfect.
Let me openly reiterate that I absolutely engage in this, I often put on the nice little act myself, I'm 100% a hypocrite. I'm guilty of smiling away in church or with friends looking like and acting like all is well with me and Jesus, while in reality I'm struggling with deep, ugly, gross sin and pain.
If you know me at all, I hope you see that I do make an effort to try to be "real"... I tend to tell it like it is, I'll be the first to say what I think or admit how I feel, and I'll openly share my struggles - more than the average person, and sometimes to a fault.
Admittedly my attempt at "realness" is often not well received. I can't tell you the amount of awkward silences I've experienced after choosing "real" and being flat out honest with others. I have especially found this to be true in the Christian world. Being real tends to make others uncomfortable, heck it makes me uncomfortable - my pride would rather not be the girl known as the struggling, messed up one with issues. I think the discomfort around open people comes from the fact that "realness" can easily spark comparison and ultimately judgement. We simply don't feel good about ourselves when we judge others, because deep down we know that our own pride is an even uglier reality to face.
As Christians we wrongly fall into the mindset that we've got Jesus so we're supposed to be happy or at least put on a happy appearance. Life should be perfect all the time right? Simply put, No, and that's why we need Jesus. We are consistently dumb and forget that our salvation is not based on our own perfection, but His. We show our forgetfulness everytime we put on the "happy joy" act and try to hide the fact that we struggle or that we sin.
I've learned over time that telling it like it is, being honest and showing my ugly true self (with some discretion of course) is generally far more God honouring and glorifying than being secretive and trying to act like I've got it all together. The flat out truth is that without God, I'm an absolute dirty, sinful mess and pretending otherwise is a warped false version of reality.
So where do the bad selfies come in? As I was chatting with my friend last week, I jokingly compared the common superficial "put on" of the church to the insanity of selfies.
Generally on social media we only show our best selfies, the ones where our smile is right, pimples are hidden, fat is covered , the light or filter is perfect, we're clean, we're cute, and we look like we're having oh SO much fun....let's face it though, it's not exactly reality or it's often a very skewed chosen version of what we would prefer reality to be. Selfies are in someways a form of denial about our reality. I wondered what church would look like if we all just showed up and posted the bad selfies? Never mind church, what would life look like if we did that? I bet there would be way more authentic beauty...and way, way, way more glory to God for it.
I personally need to work on forgetting about presenting my best "selfies" .... symbolically I started on Instagram with the bad selfie project. 10 days of posting "real selfies" - accepting that I may look ugly, sweaty, sleepy, weird, sad, mad, odd, fat, uncomfortable ... If you know me well enough you know that I'm a born "diva", so no, I don't plan on posting my worst selfies all of the time; I do however, plan on challenging myself to strive to be less superficial in the way I generally live my life and present myself to the world including amongst my Christian brothers and sisters.
So yea, this means that those whom I already make uncomfortable with my honesty and openness are going to have to find a faster pair of sneakers to run away from me. I refuse to "edit" my true self in any community. Maybe though, just maybe, by being vulnerable myself, other people will be less inclined to judge and look a little closer only to realize that showing the sweat stains, fat, mussed hair, unflattering facial expressions, bad poses, pimples, wrinkles, etc. can actually make for a really beautiful selfie. My point? The "bad selfie" can really be an awesome thing! The bad selfie says, "this is why I need Christ! The imperfection that you see in me is why God's grace, like the hymn says, is so amazing!" Bottom line - it's always way easier to see the perfection of God and His work in a "bad selfie" than it is in those cleaned up superficial "pretty" selfies that we are so often tempted to "post" at church and to the world. Let's just admit it, all of our selfies are "bad selfies", but with the "Chirst filter", any selfie can be beautiful.