It’s interesting to read the sidebars and the “About Me’s” and the self-descriptions of people in the internet world. From our screen names to our self-descriptive adjectives, most of us seem to work hard at defining ourselves to those who barely know us and are willing to believe the best (or at least to suspend disbelief). Of course, there are some who buck the trend and don’t say anything about themselves or say something catchy just for kicks. And all of that might be OK. The internet can be fun that way — customized and personalized. But I find it to be such a strange world we live in, where we can easily be more defined by our avatar of choice than by the consistency of our lives before God and the testimony of our lives before others.
I see nothing wrong with defining yourself in a certain way online, or not defining yourself at all, or putting something humorous and self-depracating in place of a detailed self-description, as long as what you say is honest, accurate, and unselfish. The problem is the difficulty of attaining those three qualities: honesty, accuracy, and unselfishness.
In the midst of this unripe, impersonal world of self-defined identity, I think it’s essential for all of us to remember that God is the true determiner of who we are. God is the ultimate evaluator, the infallible jury, and the final judge. I may put up a picture of a cross on my Facebook and I may put “God” at the top of my “Interests” list on MySpace, but it is God’s estimation of me that ultimately matters. He has His own picture of who I am and He has His own list of my interests, and it’s pretty accurate because “the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:12-13).
If you check my “About Me” page, you’ll find a short list of personal facts that give you a basic context for the rest of what you might read. I’m married, I attend seminary, I minister at The Master’s College in Southern California, I have some favorite Christian books. Sounds good enough. But you don’t know me like my friends know me, you certainly don’t know me like my wife knows me, and no one knows me like God knows me. I have to be careful — we all have to be careful — that we don’t give in to the temptation to believe too strongly in our own definitions of ourselves, our own press reports, and our own self-portraits.
I have no problem with writing your own short bio for your institution’s website or filling in the personal descriptions page on your blog or taking a nice picture of yourself and putting it on your Facebook. We’re just trying to squeeze a few relational drops out of our de-personalized internet world by seeking to know and be known. I think these relationships are incomplete and shadowy and ultimately unfulfilling, but I don’t think they’re inherely lame or unredeemable (or else I wouldn’t take the time to write on the internet). However, I do think there are dangers. One of them is the danger of believing your own self-descriptions to the extent that you deceive yourself and others into thinking that you’re a little bit (or a lot) different than you really are. Like you, I have a perception of myself. But I try not to trust it too much. God’s eyes are infinitely more trustworthy, and the mirror of His Word tends to reveal what I wouldn’t prefer to advertise.
Anyone can customize a picture of themselves and look pretty or poetic or romantic or stoic or cultured. But the more important question is whether the everyday, consistent, real you is found acceptable before the burning eye of a holy God. You are who God thinks you are, not who you present yourself to be. It would lead us all towards humility and a healthy gospel-desperation to remember that.