I recently had my picture taken at work. It’s an official business-type portrait that I can use for social media or to include with announcements. As soon as I loaded it into my profile on Facebook, everyone commented about how much they liked it. “Like” seemed liked to strong of a word, if you ask me.
There was something about the photo that just didn’t seem right. My hair seemed stringier, my teeth crookeder, my cheeks chubbier. And this AFTER I recently lost weight.
I kept analyzing, trying to figure out what it was about this picture that just didn’t look like me. I was more dressed up than usual; that was part of it. And I did have on my new glasses, which I love.
Then it hit me. The part in my hair is on the wrong side.
But I did my hair that day just like I do every day. How could my part be on the wrong side? Had the photographer flipped the picture?
As part of my new marketing position at work, it fell to me to arrange for a photographer to come and take my picture, along with all of the rest of our management team. Because of scheduling conflicts and time constraints, we ended up having three different photo shoots.
At each one, I scheduled all of the participants, helped the photographer get her equipment set up and in place, and stayed around to offer input into whether a smile was too “cheesy” or if the collar need to go inside or outside of the jacket.
After each snap of the shutter, the photographer would look at the picture, then make adjustments to the camera or the subject. Sometimes a slight turn was needed; once, the photographer actually licked her finger and wetted down a stray hair on one of my colleagues. That was a favorite moment of mine.
Eventually, she would show the shots to the subject. She would say things like, “I like you’re smile in this one,” or “I think you are turned too much in this one.” Sometimes, they would decided to take another shot. Other times, they would agree that the one they were looking on the screen would work.
Not one person actually liked any of the pictures, though. Not one. A couple of times, I even thought I saw tears welling up in the eyes of my coworkers.
After a thorough examination of my own photo, I realized that the reason the picture doesn’t look like me is because I haven’t never actually seen myself.
Sure, I’ve looked at my reflection in the mirror, but it’s different than the view captured by the camera. Or the view you have when you look directly at me.
You see the real me. I see just the opposite.
At a meeting at church recently, we were talking about that passage in Romans 7 where Paul has a conflict between his two selves. One self is now his true self, redeemed by Christ, privy to the truth of the Law. This is the self that wants to do what’s right. The other self, what used to be his true self before salvation, is actually just the opposite.
The one self is spiritual. The other is fleshly. One self knows the right thing to do. The other self refuses to do it.
I couldn’t help but think of my backwards portrait as we were talking about Paul and his two selves. I couldn’t help but wonder which one is the real me – the me you see? The me you believe the best about, the one that generally is kind and helpful? Is that the real me?
Or is the real me the one I see, the opposite one, the one who has a heart full of fear and selfishness, the one who chooses to do the wrong thing more often than not?
During the discussion, I also thought of that great literary character, Dorian Gray, the autobiographical caricature of Oscar Wilde who makes a deal with the devil so that on the outside, he will never age, while the effects of every sinful deed he carries out is portrayed clearly on a painting of himself.
That me in the work picture, the me I hardly recognized, she can relate to Dorian Gray.
I sat alone; my sin unknown;
the darkness in my heart had
come unsown, but outside all
the hems were pressed, and I
was passing every test; no one
came near enough to guess.
My life was increasingly not my
own. The evil seemed to clone
itself within myself and the
heart that once was warm was
bone cold. But who could know?
It wouldn’t show; my life was a
I longed that my heart not stay
so full of evil all my days; I prayed,
Must I go the way of Dorian Gray?
whose soul decayed but his
physiognomy betrayed what only the
picture could frighteningly portray.
I stabbed the canvas, one thrust, two.
And a voice of agony cried out,
but who knew the pain that was mine to bear,
and who gave his life so mine would be spared?
Who for me did death pursue?
Who had heaven in perfect view?
I was Dorian Gray, you see;
My sin created another me;
but I cursed the Artist in my sinful spree;
So he killed his Son on the cursed tree;
he took my evil and heard my plea
and he breathed his last, and he set me free.
And the picture of me, that bore my sin
Now looks remarkably similar to Him.
And the death he died on the dreadful limb,
brought my evil soul’s portrait to an end.