The glow of the sky’s candle warmed the wind that gently bends a sea of green in submission. Fresh, colorful petals unfurl, dotting the landscape in an attempt to mimic and one-up the grayscale ceiling that looms in the night. Trees, heavy burdened by lush foliage, sway in the wind, adding their melody of creaks and snaps to the song of Spring. A young man appears, walking down an unattended path in the wood. The warm day and strenuous walk ignited a thirst for a cold drink within him. He made two observations almost instantaneously: first his thirst and second an inviting lake bidding his presence.
The young man approached the bank of the lake, anxious to drink the cold, mountain water it contained. However, his eyes made a startling discovery when peering upon the glassy surface of the water: he was beautiful. His reflection on the still lake was both alarming and captivating. No matter how much willpower he employed, he could not pull himself away from the image, his image. His reflection was too beautiful. There he sat, beside a lake on a blossoming Spring afternoon, and Narcissus died unable to obtain what he desired.
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New York Times Columnist, Charles M. Blow published a column entitled, “The Self(ie) Generation.” His final line of the article reads: “This is not only the generation of the self; it’s the generation of the selfie.” In the column, he builds up to the statement by supplying numerous statistics that show the self-centered mindset of millennials (ages 18 to 33). In short, my age group, our age group, is driven by one signal force: what they perceive to be best for themselves. The article and numerous others that follow the same thread are scary because they seem to be the bright yellow highlighter on top of a few frightening passages of Scripture:
“But my people would not hearken to my voice; And Israel would none of me. So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust: And they walked in their own counsels. Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, And Israel had walked in my ways” (Psalm 81:11-13, King James Version)!
The Psalm speaks of the disobedience of Israel and their refusal to hearken to the voice of God. The passage continues with God telling the Israelites that he would have defeated their enemies and blessed them according to his promises, however, Israel was too enthralled in their own lusts.
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; And lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, And he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6, KJV).
I’m all for education, in fact, I’m working right now on finishing my Bachelors degree in Psychology and have every intention of venturing into graduate studies. I love school, and I personally believe that everyone who can make use of higher education should do so. But, if we are not careful, there is a danger education can bring where we look within for wisdom and understanding instead of looking outside of ourselves. We focus on man’s wisdom and understanding and become enthralled with the fading ideas of men while letting the eternal word of God grow dusty on our shelves.
“Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves” (Romans 1:24, KJV).
The entire passage that this single verse sits in is one that is hotly debated in our liberal climate today. One of the primary reasons is due to the fact that the apostle Paul is referencing homosexuality in the passage; however, the discussion of homosexuality and Paul’s point far extends the scope of my discussion here. I want to focus on six words, “the lusts of their own hearts.” Once again we see the enthrallment of humanity with their own sinful desires and the parallel fact that the ink of Paul’s pen dried almost two-thousand years ago, yet the self-centered, narcissistic reality of humanity is still prevalent.
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The little story at the beginning of this article is the mythological account of Narcissus, and the birth of what we know today as narcissism. It is a term that is so obvious in our culture and the world we live in today. Just take a step back at some point and look at popular advertisements. Whether they be for clothes, cars, or food they are all centered around one point: you! Because marketing psychologists know that human beings today are enthralled with themselves, and the only way to get somebody to purchase an item is to convince them that it will in some way make them look better or feel better.
During the Age of the Vikings the word thrall (Old Norse: þræll) meant slave. So if you were a thrall, you were a slave. The word is now the basis of our word: enthralled. We see that to be en-thralled quite literally means to be en-slaved. The simple fact of the matter is that this is the picture of the world we live in, a world that is enthralled, enslaved, with themselves. They are held captive by their own chains, chains of their own desires.
I am aware that the picture painted by this article is not with bright, happy acrylics. Most of the content in the article is convicting at least, depressing at most. However, I want to be careful here not to rush past that response. Sometimes facing the reality of our actions, of our lives, is scary and convicting, but it is only when we see that image can we begin to make the right changes. In Acts 2, Peter preaches an extremely convicting message to the Jewish people who were guilty of killing Jesus. His message stirred conviction, and forced them to come to a deciding moment, “Men and brethren, what shall we do” (Acts 2:37, KJV)? Peter was only then able to share the true of the Gospel after the men realized their own guilt (Acts 2:38).
My friends, especially those of us of who are millennials (18-33) we know we are guilty. Even though we might not always be cognitively aware of our self(ie) enthrallment in ourselves, it doesn’t take much for us to realize the fact. For example, how many likes did you get on our last Instagram post or Facebook post? We can pretend not to know, or act like it doesn't matter, but come on; it does matter. Somewhere deep down you're proud of the fact you got a few hundred likes on your last selfie, it’s gratifying.
Now, don't get me wrong, I have no bone to pick with social media. Social media morally and ethically neutral. Meaning that in and of itself, social media has no moral or ethical partisan. Instagram has no feelings; it doesn't care if you get one like or five-hundred on your last post, it's neutral. If you have five-thousand friends or only five friends on Facebook really doesn’t matter from a moral and ethical standpoint. The problem lies in us, in the fact that we enthralled with ourselves. We care about how many likes we get and how many friends we have because deep down we feel as though have something the world needs to see.
And the simple fact is: you're right! You do have something the world needs to see, the unfortunate reality, though, it’s not you; it’s the God inside of you. You know people I will never meet. You have neighbors I will never have the opportunity to talk to and meet. I may never visit your favorite local coffee shop and never talk to the personal ringing out your groceries
My friends, we are a generation that is searching for meaning, for a purpose. The troubling fact is that too often we go looking for meaning and purpose in ourselves! Once again, purpose does not live within you; it is found in the world beyond you. Please, don’t allow yourself to become enslaved by your own desires. Don’t be like Narcissus and stare dreamily at your beauty to your own demise!
My challenge for this post is simple: when was the last time you did something kind for someone other than yourself? Maybe you can buy a cup of coffee for the person in line behind you. Maybe you can simply encourage your next door neighbor. The application is up to you. I’m simply asking that you refocus your attention; remove it from yourself and direct it to the world around you.