The Ultimate Selfy
In a past article, I made mention of a video presentation that had a lasting impression upon the way I now look at life, others, and faith. The film featured a well-respected National Geographic photographer whose method of capturing images in nature could be applied in every aspect of life. His approach was to focus upon and capture the image of whatever he was interested in from many and varied distances and angles. In short, he had to move toward and away from his original position in order to gain a new perspective.
A shift of position often revealed a kind of blindness in his original perception of the subject. Hence, photographing in this way opened a window in his thinking about what he had first observed, against what he discovered later through reviewing his work. In doing so, his way of looking at a subject—his perception and perspective—was altered. More often than not, this photographer was surprised to find things hidden within his photos that had not been visible while he was actively engaged in the process of his work.
The photographer’s message was more than just a feature on the wonders of photography. His point was an illustration about dismissive assumptions and assessments that can be easily made at first glance. The images he presented demonstrated a revelation of new discovery through a practical process of patient persistence. In other words, as a photographer he looked at the natural world with expectation and usually found more than he ever bargained for because he was not satisfied with accepting anything on the first take. By approaching his subjects in this manner, he discovered a depth of knowledge by merely changing his position from a fixed point, and thereby improving his perception and perspective in the process. In his message to the audience, the photographer suggested that clues exist in nature which point to something greater than what the naked eye is able to perceive.
The best illustration of this can be found at your local Department of Motor Vehicles. After completing and passing written and physical tests of our knowledge and ability to operate an automobile, each driver is asked to stand a fixed distance from a camera lens (with the instruction to not smile) as a picture is taken. And while there might be a rare instance that a few drivers might look fondly upon the image of themselves in a DMV photo, I have never heard anyone insist upon duplicating any particular DMV shot in order to distribute it to friends and family. The truth is most of us think very little of our drivers’ license photos because they fail to capture our images properly and often reflect poorly upon how we see ourselves.
The recent cell phone photography craze of capturing one’s own image and posting it to social media, called a “selfy,” tends to support our disdain for the DMV-style image. As a participant in the social media called Facebook, I am regularly reminded that friends and family members have updated their personal photographs, most often through the posting of “selfies.” I find the practice most often comical, much like the character in the Ben Stiller film called Zoolander—a male fashion model obsessed with his own image and celebrity. Zoolander often posed for the cameras claiming he had a new look (with names like Blue Magnum), but in reality all the new looks looked just like the old ones. Whether a DMV photo or a selfy image, the perspective never changes, so the perception remains the same.
If you have never done this before, I invite you, the reader, to suspend all skepticism, criticism, and disbelief for a few moments and consider the existence of an invisible God. Why invisible? It is a matter of perspective. Take a look at nature first. There are wild animals visible in nature that, if given the opportunity, would kill human beings for food on a more regular basis. We did not create those wild animals, but we co-exist with them on the same planet. The larger those wild animals are, the more intimidating they appear to us. Now if God exists (One who created the universe and all that was contained within), He would have to be superior to everything else created. If that same God possessed a physical form, how big and terrifying would he appear to mere humans by that standard? Yet if that God is not of physical form, one of Spirit which is unseen, and not confined to the natural realm, then invisibility is not an issue.
Perhaps you might say, “Well, if there is a Creator-God of the universe, how is one to know which religion is correct? After all, many religions espouse good values and moral principles. For that matter, what if a person just lives a good life without believing in any god at all? Does believing in One-True God or many gods or none really matter in this life?”
Take a few steps back with your mental camera for a moment. Take it all in. Move to the left and take a few shots of the Creator-God. Now move to the right and take some more. Try and get some close ups if you can. Don’t worry that He is invisible. Just be persistent and keep looking for the best angle to capture His image. Keep moving, keep searching, don’t lose focus.
Some folks have captured the image of the Creator-God from the perspective of His wrath. God gives and He also takes away. Others have seen the image of God in His miraculous signs and wonders, like the ten plagues on Egypt, or the parting of the Red Sea. As a Christian, I look at Jesus on the cross, then I move to another spot and look at the image of God again. Then I take another look from another angle. It is difficult to gaze upon that image for very long, the disfigured body of the Son of God—unjustly condemned, humiliated, tortured, and executed in a slow grueling death. But I see something different every time I look, often things I never saw at first glance.
When I look upon the image of Jesus hanging on the cross, I see a sacrifice from an invisible God. The knowledge that my sinfulness is responsible for his sacrifice shocks me beyond my understanding. But God does not point an accusing finger at me and say, “That should have been you!” No. The truth speaks for itself in the image. When I move to the left, I see the image of His innocence. There are people, witnesses standing around the place of his execution—religious leaders, the Roman soldiers (the government), angry accusers, tearful friends and family members—all potential beneficiaries of God’s mercy.
Yet when I take a few steps to the right, I see something that was not immediately visible in that place of death and despair. I see the ultimate “selfy” from God. That selfy is the image of God’s love for every sinner—every man, woman, and child who ever existed—from the least to the greatest. It is the self-image of the most powerful Being, the Great I AM, the Creator-God of the universe humbling Himself before His creation in order to be seen by mankind through an act of love; made visible by the cross. It is terrifying and beautiful. Can’t you see it?
I confess, I cannot stand to gaze upon the image of Jesus on the cross, yet I cannot bear take my eyes off of Him. So I keep changing my position in order to get a better look. The more I look, the more I see. My perception and perspective about who God is, what truth is, and who I am continues to be altered by God’s image through Jesus on the cross. The more I take in, the more God reveals Himself to me. I can see the invisible, where I could not before.
Believe in God or do not. That is your decision to make. Whatever your decision, know that it matters in eternity. If you are uncertain, I encourage you to be persistent and patient. Have faith and don’t forget—in order to see God you have to look for Him.
(copyright 2014, Gregory Allen Doyle)