René Maciel: Longing to find our selfies

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What a blessing to be the commencement speaker at East Texas Baptist University. The new president, Blair Blackburn, invited me to address the university’s graduates this year, and it was a wonderful experience and a beautiful ceremony.

rene maciel headshot130René MacielETBU, located in Marshall, is one of our nine Texas Baptist higher education institutions. It is a magnificent campus and an excellent choice for students who are considering a college degree within a Christian environment. It is one of the 27 Texas Baptist institutions that will be highlighted this year at our Baptist General Convention of Texas annual meeting in Waco, Nov. 13-15. Please make plans to attend the annual meeting and stop by their information booth.

Here are my thoughts and the challenge I shared with those graduates, and it could very easily be a challenge for many of us:

texas baptist voices right120“Why do we take so many selfies or pictures of ourselves?” A recent survey calculated the average Millennial could take up to about 26,000 selfies in his or her lifetime.

The start of the selfie trend is difficult to pinpoint, although The Guardian estimated they emerged in 2010, when the iPhone 4 was released with a front-facing camera. Now, people across the world take more than 1 million selfies each day.

Let me give you a definition. “A selfie is a photograph that one takes of oneself with a digital camera or a front-facing smartphone, tablet or webcam, especially for posting on a social-networking or photo-sharing website.”

Maybe we take these photos because we are searching for ourselves. We want others to take notice. Can you see me? Whatever the reason, it has become a popular phenomenon in our culture, maybe even an epidemic of a search for self.

According to God’s word, we were created in his image, in his likeness: “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).

We were meant to be the image of God, and the fall created in us a self-awareness or a self-image problem: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:7-8).

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So they realized they had changed and there was an identity problem. We still search and look for ourselves. We look for that original image God created, and God’s intentions have not changed for us. His plan was to fashion a people who would reflect his glory.

The biggest challenge for college graduates is not finding a job but finding themselves. Maybe all of us search and add things to our lives, trying to find fulfillment. It is so easy to get distracted and to lose ourselves. We were made to be like God, so we all have a longing to find our original selves, that God image, his likeness.

The next time you take a selfie, take a long look at the picture. You look like your Father—your heavenly Father.

René Maciel is president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas and president of Baptist University of the Américas in San Antonio.

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