Who are you?
Part 1: Don't be defined by others. Be defined by Jesus.
In 2006, Time Magazine declared YOU to be the ‘Person of the Year’. This annual award that normally belongs to World Leaders and other notable figures was given to YOU… “Yes, you. You control the Information Age. Welcome to your world.”
Fast forward to 2013. The Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year is… SELFIE. This makes sense. Seven years of being told that YOU are at the centre of the universe + a rapidly increasing number of camera-enabled smart phones + universal access to social media platforms = SELFIE.
I think all of this raises some questions ... How do you think about yourself in a selfie world? How are you supposed to think about your identity? Who are you?
Horizontal: The wrong way to think about yourself
The horizontal person defines themselves by looking to those around them. Culture, marketing, social media, peer pressure and competitiveness all shape how we think about ourselves and how we seek to make ourselves better. Mark Sayers observes that there is,
“…almost unbearable pressure on teens to be cool, sexy, or famous in order to feel worthwhile as human beings.” (The Vertical Self)
Social media teaches us to aim for cool, sexy and famous at all costs because it sucks to be lame, ugly and unknown. How do you feel when you get less “likes” than you thought you would on that Instagram pic? Perhaps your desire for “likes” is part of viewing yourself horizontally.
The horizontal tax collector
In Luke 18, two dudes went to a temple to pray. One was super-religious, the other was super-sinful. The religious guy prayed like this,
‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ (Luke 18:11-12, ESV)
He defined himself horizontally. He compared himself to those around him and he was very happy with himself. He was quite obviously better than the super-sinful guy. However, in the end, he didn’t go home acceptable with God.
Don't be defined by others
How you do define yourself? Cool… Hipster? Surfer? Sexy… Thigh-gap? Shredded-abs? Famous… The most “friends”? The most “likes”? Defining yourself like this, can lead to massive insecurity in life.
“One reason we struggle w/ insecurity: we're comparing our behind the scenes to everyone else's highlight reel.” (Steven Furtick on Twitter)
Thinking about yourself horizontally, looking for acceptance in how you perceive yourself compared to those around you, is the wrong way to think about self.
Vertical: The right way to think about yourself
Our identity and idea of self is to be shaped vertically, by our relationship to God.
In the opening chapter of the Bible, out of everything that God made, it says that people were made in a special and unique way.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27, ESV)
Humans are made in the image and likeness of God. This is extraordinary! It means we can know him, relate to him and walk with him. This means that who we are is defined by who God is. Being made in the image of God means we make much of God rather than making much of self.
In the New Testament it describes Jesus as our Creator. It says that “all things were made by Jesus and for Jesus” (Colossians 1:16). Our whole purpose for existence is “for Jesus”. The vertical self is constantly thinking about how to live for Jesus, how to please Jesus, how to honour Jesus!
To get yourself ready for tomorrow's post, have a think about this question ... what's at the centre of your universe?