Another year behind us and more wrinkles ahead of us! I don’t mean to insult anyone but the aging process happens daily to us all, without fail. However, I have just found a cheat’s way to avoid such issues, as I got a brief look the other day, at the new-to-me technology that is Snapchat! Gosh! With some of those make-up and prettifying filters I looked like a teenager again! I could present an image to the world, as many people do, that makes me appear superficially and artificially attractive. What an eye opener that was to me. Such fun too!
There’s no need to let anyone know if you’re bothered by blemishes, sullied by spots or worried by wrinkles, in this brave new world that technology offers us. Just post instant, fake, computerised images, or selfies, and the world is none the wiser. They last but a moment then disappear in any case. All is frivolity and fun!
Having just finished a novel, in which the main female character was a photographer in 1875, it stood in direct contrast to my brief look at Snapchat’s computerised, distorting instant photos. Photography in those early days was a complex, lengthy process requiring much patience by both the subject of the image and the photographer, as well.
To give you a little insight I will quote from the story, that I have just read.
“Elizabeth knelt and untied the straps to her shoulder pack and withdrew her camera, followed by glass plates cocooned in fabric and an assortment of bottles, each wrapped separately to prevent breakage. A glance confirmed that Josiah would soon have her dark tent set up and her supplies arranged inside.
She readied one of the camera plates for exposure, cleaning the glass with a mixture of pumice and alcohol. She poured collodion onto the readied surface, tilted the plate at various angles until the entire area was coated with the transparent solution, drained the excess back into the container, and reached for a cloth.
Josiah lifted the front flap of the tent, and she crawled through the opening, wet camera plate in hand. A candle flickered burnished yellow in the darkness.
Elizabeth dipped the plate, now tacky to the touch, into a light-sensitizing bath Josiah had prepared. Twelve parts water to one part silver nitrate. Minutes later, once the surface of the glass was uniform and creamy white in colour, she removed it from the bath, wiped the back of it with a clean cloth, and slid it into a lightproof wooden holder.
She took the plate to her camera that was mounted on a mahogany tripod and bent at the waist to view the upside-down scene through the glass viewer. Capturing a slice of time like this, on a piece of glass always gave Elizabeth a thrill.” (Taken from the novel, “From A Distance” by Tamera Alexander)
OK, so a little photography history for you there. In fact, I have myself been involved with developing photographs in a dark-room with chemical baths, when I was a young teenager. So, the above story took me back to those long-ago memories of watching the photographs enchantingly appear on the photographic paper. However, my thoughts turn now to the spiritual connection that struck me regarding these immensely differing photography techniques.
Image is Everything?
In this day and age, particularly in the dating game, image certainly takes a huge place in people’s minds. Many can become obsessed and controlled by it. Even Christians are not immune to the pressures to “be beautiful” in this modern age of instant selfies. But let’s now step back a little and ask ourselves a couple of simple questions.
What image does God have of us?
How does He want us to view ourselves?
“Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”
This is one scripture that has spoken loud and clear to me over the past few years, as I’ve struggled with these issues of who I am, how I appear to other people, and am I attractive or just turning into an old woman? I am being really honest here with you. As a woman whose husband walked out on me in my early forties, these things have been an immense battle for my mind and heart – hence this whole concept for this article. I know that others may also struggle in singleness, whether from choice or circumstances beyond one’s control. And any of us can become overly anxious about our appearance or how others perceive us.
We all have innate desires for what I call the A, B, C, Desires of life.
- Companionship Desires
I can only advise, keep praying to the Lord, for help with each aspect of your self-image, and then obey what He tells you. We need to be people who fear the Lord, not trusting in our charm or beauty, nor trusting in our own strength or intelligence.
I would also advise that in seeking the Lord about developing His view of your life to be very cautious about listening to other people who may emphasise the world’s viewpoint to you. One thing that I have learnt in the three decades of following Jesus Christ, is that His ways are not our ways. So even basic human desires have to be submitted to Him so we can have our minds and hearts transformed to His way of thinking.
He still speaks, He still leads and guides His people today, and He is gracious and merciful to transform you, as you submit to Him.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1-2
So, the mould that we feel “the world” wants to squeeze us into, is one we ought to be carefully and prayerfully resisting. The world values youth and beauty, the instant and the temporal. God, on the other hand, values the gradual process of building your inner-beauty, the Christ-like characteristics of the gentle fruit of the Holy Spirit. The contrast is like the old way of producing photographs, that took much patience and time, as opposed to the modern instant selfie snapshots.
“Do not let your adornment be merely outward —
arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine clothing — rather let it be
the hidden person of the heart,
with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit,
which is very precious in the sight of God.”
1 Peter 3:3-4
The Bible on Banishing Blemishes
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,
that He might present her to Himself a glorious church,
not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”
So, being spot, wrinkle and blemish-free in a spiritual sense comes from washing properly – that is washing by the “water of the word”. In such a manner does Christ sanctify and cleanse us. He is the Living Water and He is the Word of God. He will keep cleansing us from sin, worldliness and self-obsession, IF we seek His help continually. And it is so vital that we do this. He tells us to BE Holy as He is Holy.
If we fail, then we will more than likely be conformed to the pattern of the world, simply by default. That is the world of self-absorption, self-obsession, self-centeredness, self-glorification, self-delusion and ultimately even self-worship and self-destruction. I certainly don’t want to follow such a selfish path, and I’m sure you would wish to avoid it too.
In helping me break free from the worldly thinking of myself I feel that the Lord emphasised to me that, “All flesh is as grass…”
“All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers, and its flower falls away,
but the word of the Lord endures forever.”
1 Peter 1:25
Death of Self
Basically, it felt like the Lord was letting me know that I needed to stop thinking about myself. Instead I was to pursue a path of denying myself. I had spent too long on my appearance, my outer beautification processes, how I presented myself to the world, and wanting to be accepted and liked by them. Now it was time to finally listen to and obey Him.
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25
I think that I had been like the “grain of wheat that falls into the ground,” but that instead of dying to produce much fruit, I had spent many years in wriggling about not dying, jumping out of the ground, shouting out, “Won’t someone look at me?” For if I am honest with you, falling into the ground and dying is pretty dark, cold and lonely! Dying to self, the world and the flesh has been rather a painful, lengthy process; rather like the early photographic process. Those that crave instant, spiritual and character producing results, may be likened to the fake Snapchats filters; such fake and falsified results fade from our lives just as quickly as those images disappear from the screens.
In answer to the above questions regarding the image God wants of us, I feel that He is working with us, in the life-long, lengthy process of developing the image of the beauty of Christ in as. Thus we actually become the picture to the world around us of what Jesus Christ is really like.
So yes, we all have to grow older and consequently our natural physical beauty fades away. In fact, ultimately our lives will fade away to the final fact of our future death. This is a sobering thought at the start of the year, but one that can hopefully assist us in thinking realistically about our length of days and how we should spend them.
“So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom.
And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us,
And establish the work of our hands for us.”
Psalm 90:12 & 17
Will this year be a time that you allow the Lord deeper into the depths of your self? Will you this year seek His help in searching all those areas that need to die, in order that you may live more effectively in pleasing Him? I am certainly setting that as my goal this year, as ever.
May God bless you in more selfless living for His Glory.
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