We live in arguably the most individualistic culture in one of the most individualistic periods in history. The proof alone can be found in the 2013 Oxford University Press word of the year—“selfie.”
Apparently Microsoft Word hasn’t trended toward self-centeredness yet. It doesn’t recognize the word.
But we do. Boy, do we ever.
Consider that nearly 45 million pictures on Instagram alone are tagged with the word selfie. There’s even more than that on Twitter. In fact, #selfies are so popular today that Facebook has more than Twitter and Instagram combined.
I want to clear the air before I go further—I don’t hate all selfies, just most of them. I don’t need to see your curves, cleavage, abs, or behind on social media. Especially through a mirror.
What I hate most is that we’re living in a selfie generation.
Without belaboring the point, consider one last piece of evidence. Research on college students over the past 30 years reveals that narcissism (or self-centeredness) increased by 30%, while empathy (the ability to step into the shoes of another) decreased by 40%.[i]
So what’s this have to do with God’s plan for your life?
I want to humbly admit that I’m as much a part of the selfie generation as anybody. Though I don’t take or post selfies, I am as self-centered as they come. First, because it’s my sin nature; and secondly, because I live in the most individualistic culture at one of the most individualistic times in history, and everything I do, say, think, and act on is through this lens. I cannot separate myself from it.
And therein lies the problem.
Our faith is tainted by the culture we live in. We read our Bible through a #selfie lens. We pray through a #selfie lens. We give thanks through a #selfie lens. We meet in small groups through a #selfie lens. We even preach and teach from the pulpit on Sunday morning through a #selfie lens.
Yet, as I read my Bible, I’m reminded by Paul that in order to become a more loving, joyful, patient, peaceful, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled person, I must crucify my #selfie with all its passions and desires.
My journey to becoming more like Christ is supposed to be less of self, not more.
But as Western Christians, our cultural lenses taint our faith journey. We take Jeremiah 29:11 and plaster it on all kinds of trinkets, claim it as our verse that God has a plan for me to prosper and have a hope and future, yet we never really look at the verse in its proper context. We just assume it’s God’s verse for me.
I know this because I’ve done it.
I thought God had a plan for me. I was told for years by well meaning Christians that “God’s plan for my life” was amazing!
Maybe you’ve been told something like it. And you got excited. Perhaps it meant that God was going to make you popular. Make you wealthy. Give you the ideal spouse. The perfect family. Even provide you with a rewarding and influential career.
Or maybe you thought it meant you were going to be a celebrity. Even have your own TV show. Write a best seller. Or have people knocking at your door to have you speak at their events.
Here’s where God’s plan for your life is a myth.
In a #selfie culture, we must be very careful how we encourage other Christians. They’re taking in what we say through a Western lens.
The other morning I was reading Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby and I was struck by his suggestion that when God chose Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, he didn’t have Moses in mind.
He had His people in mind.
Does God want to use me? Absolutely He does. But He wants to use me to further His Kingdom, not mine.
God’s plan for my life is about His people—people He wants to lead back to Himself.
And if I don’t get my #selfie out of the way, He’ll use somebody else.
Perhaps it’s time we start asking what God’s plan is for His people—and how we could be privileged to take part.
This post first appeared on joshuastraub.com on March 6, 2014.
Joshua Straub, Ph.D. is an advocate for families and parenting in the 21st century. He loves coming alongside families to provide encouragement, support and practical counsel. Josh specializes in combining the scientific research with biblical wisdom to provide the best-of-all-worlds perspective on raising stellar kids, having an awesome marriage and living a full life. He is the author of the upcoming release Safe House: How Emotional Safety is the Key to Raising Kids Who Live, Love, and Lead Well (October, 2015). Together with his favorite writing partner and wife, Christi, Josh is working on raising his own baseball team, starting with their son Landon and daughter Kennedy. For more encouragement and ideas on marriage and parenting in the 21st century you can join Josh and a growing tribe of awesome families at www.joshuastraub.com and follow him on Twitter @joshuastraub or Facebook.
[i] Twenge, J. & Campbell, W. K. (2010). The narcissism epidemic. New York: Free Press.