I flipped through the newspaper. A particular advertisement for a jewellery brand caught my eye. The model looked gorgeous. Her attire was perfect and she carried off the jewellery with extreme grace. I kept staring at the picture. It looked flawless. She looked flawless. And made me feel absolutely flawed! The list of my imperfections rolled down in my mind. I argued in my head why I can never look like the model I was staring at. I can’t imagine being able to wear the dress she was wearing or her jewellery. It would look so out of place on me! I would have spent a good five minutes staring at that advertisement before flipping the page with a sigh. There are numerous times I have walked into a clothing store, enticed by advertisements of bewitching models in beautiful attires. I used to believe that if I got the same dress, I might be able to look like them. But in reality, no matter how much we try, we seldom end up matching up to what any advertisement shows( I definitely don’t!).
I was just thinking of the power of advertising. To be precise, about why they manage to get us. Everytime. It appeals to our desires in an obvious way but we seem to be oblivious to it. It captivates our imaginations and caters to our deep desire to be perfect. It promises to help us overcome our flaws and blend in better with the changing world. And oddly, I have found many brands claiming to “complete us”.
Completion. Becoming perfect. Blending in better. Establishing our identity. These are four core ideals of most advertisements. Nothing too much to wonder because these are areas which most of us struggle with. Let’s just look into these themes individually.
Completion. As a teenager, I always felt a vacuum in me. There was something missing. Having been blessed with a good family, I honestly lacked nothing. My parents were loving and made sure we had everything. Yet I stuggled to find completion. The search was terrible and I always reached back to square one. You can’t wear that favourite dress forever. You get bored of that expensive perfume. The latest jewellery soon go out of style. No, even that expensive brand of shoes are not immune to damage. No person will ever be able to be there for you as they promise and vice versa. Nothing in this world was able to fill my vacuum. Till college. It was in college, I came to really encounter the love of Christ. I was awed by Him and as I accepted Christ as my personal saviour, the earlier emptiness seemed to vanish. It made me realise that nothing in this world can complete me. Nothing but Christ.
Becoming perfect. Perfection is something we all strive for. Some of us often get branded as “perfectionists”. Yet we are just not able to attain it. No matter how much we try, somthing always seems to be out of place. Growing up, there were times when I felt out of place. And so, I tried to be perfect. Doing all the good things. Saying all the right stuff. I tried to live a good life. But it just never seemed to be enough. No matter how much I tried, I somehow fell short of it. It just seemed like I was going in circles. Then I came across Hebrews 10:14,” For by one sacrifice Christ has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” This meant my perfection is based on Christ dying for my sins. And I am “being made” holy. It is an ongoing process. We are being perfected. God is working in our lives to conform us into the image of Christ. If so, being Christ like, doesn’t obviously mean being the best dressed, dining at the best places in town, owning that mansion or riding that famous car. Being Christ like translates to imitating the values of Christ and obeying His word.
Blending in well. That is a common thought most of us have. We want to be part of the world. We don’t want to be the odd man out. If that happens, we fear that the world will look down at us. And if someone tries to take the path less trodden, they are labelled as “eccentric” or “odd”. We fear these labels and so try to hide behind other labels- famous brands/ trends/ traditions. We run after things so that we won’t feel left out. Somewhere along the way, this run becomes a race. We try to outrun ourselves, our relatives, friends, neighbours and even the stranger on the street. It becomes a race to blend in while having the “best”- a term which gets re-defined every now and then. The best car of 1980 is out of style. You dont find the old fat television set in homes anymore. So if you dont have a flat screen TV, you are either poor or old fashioned. I could never run out of such examples.
Making a statement. Even though we try to blend in with the world, we have a yearning to make our own statements. To leave our impressions. To be unique. Quite ironic. We try to blend in while we say we are trying to maintain our own identity. Hairstyles, the clothes we wear, the car we drive..all of it is apparently our statement. I have made some pathetic efforts at some similar “statements” of my own. And obviously, I failed miserably at all of them. This left me in an identity crisis. If my identity is in the things around me, it will change with the things too. So do I need to get an “identity” makeover along with my wardrobe and hairstyle?! The realisation that my identity is in Christ put a full stop to all my doubts. If my Lord is an unchanging God who could go to the extent of the cross for me, I don’t need those frequent identity makeovers! It is a one time process. A one time shopping!
In the background, we can see how some advertisements call out to the basic evil desires in us- greed, envy and lust. We always want more. Greed.Mainly because others have it. Envy. Also beacuse it looks/feels good. Lust of eyes and heart. And Bible says all these are the signs of the flesh. So who is really in control of our lives- flesh or Christ?
Now with all this happening around us, how do we tackle the matter. Does this mean “No More Shopping?!”(my dad would definitely be glad to hear that!) No. But it means a new outlook on things. It is not wrong to have the best of things. But let that not be your identity. Let need and not greed guide you. Next time, we walk into that fancy mall, let’s just try and do some things. Pray before we go shopping(No. Don’t worry.It will stop sounding funny once you start practising it).Identify our necessities- what we need to buy instead of what we want. Reflect if what we buy/wear/eat/drink/drive is going to help build God’s kingdom or be a stumbling block to someone. Understand our worth in the Lord. Be good stewards of our money. And lastly, try to be insulated from this world instead of being isolated. This doesn’t mean we wear sack cloth and act “holier -than- thou” . We don’t have to live an isolated life. That is the opposite of what we are called to. Instead, know how to let the love, joy and peace that we have in Christ shine through all that we are. Let the Word of God and His spirit be the insulation we need as we learn to be a “practising” Christian in the twenty first century.