As a youth leader I often find myself turning to the Internet for ideas for games, activities and topics of conversation to connect with younger generations.
During a recent adventure into cyberspace I found an article suggesting the most important teaching opportunities for teenagers in their current climate. Moved by what I read in this article, I started to talk about and tackle some of these issues with my youth group—this past week we looked at self-image.
When we look at ourselves in the mirror, what sort of mirror do we use?
Maybe we could use a piece of aluminium foil? Aluminium foil is shiny, it's reflective, and we can see our general outline—or parts of ourselves in it.
The foil mirror represents the world and the image it would have us become. The world—culture, movies, music and news—shows us a blurry and undefined image of ourselves.
Yes, we can identify with some parts of what we find in culture. We can identify with different characters in stories, we can like a particular style of music or fashion; but we can't see the complexity of our reflection by looking in the mirror of the world. All we get is a fuzzy representation lacking clarity and accuracy.
Or maybe we could use a mirror covered with stickers? This mirror is dominated by what others say about us—good and bad. Yes, we might be able to see little pieces of ourselves through the stickers; but really we are overwhelmed by all the things that people have said to us, or about us.
This is the reflection we get when we take our self-image from others. Our reflection might look fabulously decorated, but again, it's not accurate and it doesn't really reflect who we are.
Over time more and more stickers pile up. We might swell with pride as the stickers keep coming, only to collapse under the weight of unmet expectations. Or we might sink to our knees from constant rejection and disapproval. Either way, the mirror covered with stickers will never provide a constant, dependable and unbiased reflection.
Maybe we could use a broken mirror? A mirror with a big crack through it is like the mirror of religion. While there might be some truths to what we see in this mirror, the huge crack distorts the most fundamental truth about our human condition.
We are not defined by the good or bad things we have done. No amount of going to church will make God love us more, and no amount of sin can separate us from God's love. This broken mirror will only show us our faults and our successes, and is incapable of reflecting the full truth of how we should see ourselves.
A small, but perfect, mirror
Finally, we could use a small, but perfectly clear, mirror. This mirror is the Word of God. It is absolute truth. It's hard to see all of ourselves in it at one time, and we have to get really close.
The Word of God shows us our strengths and our weaknesses, our successes and our failures; but more importantly, it shows us the way God sees us.
We're not who the world says we should be. We're not who our friends say we are. We're not a collection of religious failures or successes. We're defined by a God who made us in His image, and who gave His Word so we could see a true reflection of ourselves in all of our uniqueness and brokenness.
Any time we are challenged by our self-image, we need to remember the small but accurate mirror sitting on our shelf. This mirror reminds us to stop looking at ourselves and look to Jesus—the author and perfector of our faith. In Jesus we find our true identity as children of God; as redeemed people of faith, holy and pure before God.
Blaine Packer is a graduate of Worldview Centre for Intercultural Studies who is passionate about media and mission. Currently residing in Launceston, Tasmania, Blaine is involved in both media and local ministry work at Door of Hope Christian Church.
Blaine Packer's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/blaine-packer.html