Keith Green wrote the following line in his song Make My Life A Prayer, 1979:
'Oh it's so hard to see, when my eyes are on me"
In many ways, this lyrical line describes the 21st century's biggest pandemic:
the disease of self.
It's amusing to watch videos of people so focused on their smartphones that they actually walk into ponds or street poles. Amusing and sad. Some have even died trying to take the perfect selfie. Anything for more likes. More approval. More acceptance.
When my focus is myself that becomes all I can see. Like a new app on your phone it becomes a way to filter reality. Filters are great things. It can make average Joe look like a Hollywood star. It's not real though, but it looks real.
Narcissus died because he couldn't pull himself away from his own image. He became his own deepest desire.
How are we like Narcissus?
How do we also blind ourselves by our own self-obsession?
How are our lives hijacked by our own reflections of personal goodness, righteousness, and outer beauty?
'Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don't make a performance out of it. It might be good theatre, but the God who made you won't be applauding'
Yeah, Jesus telling it pretty straight just like it is. When my eyes are on me my life becomes a performance. It becomes a stage. When that happens even something like truth becomes staged. Reality outside the walls of the theatre become unreality. The only thing that matters is the stage, the limelight, and the applause.
Jesus carries on in Matthew 6, and once again Eugene Peterson puts it in simple language in The Message:
"Here's what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace"
It's so tempting with the incredible attraction and distraction of social media today to become the role. Identification with a role becomes a defense mechanism against feelings of loneliness, fears of being rejected or anxiety of not being good enough. I become the eternal actor in my own life, cheered on by likes and shares. I'd rather deceive myself than discover the truth about myself.
But what's behind the stage? What happens outside the limelight? What's lurking in the shadows?
An invitation to stop role playing?
Hope even, to be real and be free from opinions and applause?
The promise of finding grace for simply being real?
The focus will shift...from you to God.
Limelight replaced by sunlight.
Then we begin to find new life, see new hope, and sense new things, like grace.
Discovering I've been accepted and loved, all along.