In Which I Take a Selfie and Bare my Soul


Every morning when I walk to the sink to brush my teeth, I am greeted in the mirror by the reflection of Abraham Lincoln.

Honest Abe wasn’t much of a looker. Too bad I take after him. I’m kidding, of course, but they say all stories have a seed of truth.

The selfie culture of our day is interesting, is it not? It feels weird to take a selfie---at least it is for me. I can never get it “right” the first time. My gaze or my smile always needs tweaked. After several takes, an acceptable image will present itself. Then there are photo editors and filters at my disposal if I want to spiff myself up. With some effort, it’s possible to turn my Lincoln-look into an acceptable representation of me.

I think it would be fair to say that a selfie rarely rings true. The image offers little about the person in the photo.

We live in a culture of mask-wearers----online and in real life. What most of us don’t realize is we don’t keep our masks firmly in place. Our masks dissolve and our real countenances surface without our notice. It takes too much intention to keep our masked faces in place for long periods of time. If someone shares a surprise, a list of instructions, or a piece of gossip, our faces will show our reaction to the subject at hand. Even when there is no big revelation, we still lose the masks. Our faces mirror our emotions and our souls. 

People read our faces all the time. What many of us don’t realize is our faces are likely not being read in the way we think they are.

In a world of faces, we are strangers to others and even to ourselves. 
Keeping it real!
That’s painful news. It is painful for me because I’m aware of a couple of different occasions of late where I was told others didn’t feel liked by me. Granted, these were people who didn’t know me well or not at all. If you are wondering why I care? It’s because I love people. One of my core values is to make sure people I encounter don’t feel invisible (people I know and strangers). Maybe these people who read me as not liking them should have asked me what was up or taken more time before making a judgment? The truth is something about my countenance made them question my acceptance of them. I own it.

Psalm 42 is a song of despair that many have taken solace in (including me). The song raises a question to the soul that reveals the deep pain of having tears as “food day and night.”  From the depths, the questions are repeated twice in the eleven verses:
Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? (v. 5a, v.11a)
Like most of the songs of lament, the language of despair turns to a statement of hope at the end:
“Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.”(v. 11b)
The writer of Psalm 42 knew it is the face that reveals despair. Only when the soul is healed can the face be helped, and only God can mend the soul.

It is important to me to have a countenance that reflects my inside. Sometimes that will mean I look sad or anxious. I risk being read wrong by others when I go maskless out in the world. Sometimes others will read my face as a judgment on them. It has happened and it will happen again. 

I can’t do anything about what others think, but I can ask God to help my countenance realizing that what I need is help with my soul. He alone can search our hearts, but he needs us to participate once He reveals to us our heart condition.

We are all in process. God is not a genie god. He is a shaper of souls. This happens as he gives us His life and we begin the process of dying to ourselves and living in Him. We begin the process of transformation as we learn, on the way, how to walk according to the Spirit. This is an intentional process that takes time.  As our lives in Christ grow, as we mature in our faith, we are changed from the inside out and it shows on our faces.

This should be true for us when circumstances beg for celebration as much as in times of despair. Unfortunately, in our cynical culture we are so numb and disconnected from our inner life, it is rare even for Christians to have joy written on their faces----and I confess this would include me.

Sometimes those little moments of celebration come and oh, how sweet they are. I shared with a friend at church some beautiful things the Lord was doing in my life. Her face lit up and her eyes welled with tears of joy. Her love and happiness for me showed all over her face. It was a beautiful gift. 

One challenge I’m giving myself (again) is to see people as God sees them even if their faces reveal some kind of hard truth. I want to laugh and I want to cry. I don't want to hide. When others look at me, I want them to see my soul.

I won't wallow when I fail to love people well. I will grieve for a bit, ask forgiveness if it seems right, and move on. I will go easy on those who judge me harshly and I will go easy on myself. I will ask the Lord to help my countenance, to shape my inside so my outside looks like Him...

and not so much like Abraham Lincoln.

How is your soul? What would I see right now if read your face?



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