The taking of ‘selfies’, and the subsequent display of our beaming faces on social media, has taken the world by storm in recent years. We unabashedly pose, often with cheerful smiles, even if we do not feel cheerful at the moment. When reviewing the photos taken, we invariably focus first on how we look, sometimes requesting a ‘retake’ if we are dissatisfied with how we are portrayed.
There is nothing wrong with taking selfies, but when our focus is on our outer presentation, we may develop a dangerous habit of self-promotion, and adopt an attitude of self-fulfillment rather than self-denial. Living in a ‘selfie’ world is not confined only to taking photographs, but refers also to living with the attitude that we are ‘number one’ – an attitude which started way back with Man’s Fall in the Garden of Eden. Generations of believers find it challenging to practise self-denial, and often succumb to rationalising our ‘wants’ as our needs.
In this season of Lent, let us remember Christ’s exhortation in Luke 9:23 to follow Him as His disciples, and deny ourselves to the point of losing our lives.
The concept of self-denial has been an annual practice for Methodist women of the Women’s Society of Christian Service (WSCS) since 1887. The Week of Prayer and Self-Denial (PSD) calls them to spiritual growth, awareness, and action. Through it, women are challenged to engage in prayer and to reflect on stewardship, as they respond to others’ needs in the home, church, community, and the world beyond.
The WSCS has 37 chapters across the three Annual Conferences of The Methodist Church in Singapore. During PSD Week, we reflect in prayer and meditation using devotional booklets prepared by fellow WSCS members. In addition, we deny ourselves of luxuries or time usually spent on ourselves, redirecting such resources sacrificially to ministry work in mission fields. Through such activities, WSCS has continued to intentionally encourage women to know Christ deeply, and to support one another to grow in Christ and make Him known.
Many erroneously think PSD Week is a fund-raising exercise. Rather, the practice of self-denial involves putting aside what we normally spend on ourselves for the good of others.
For example, some make time to cook for food sales, while others switch to lower cost supermarket deals, or sacrifice holidays and costly dinners. Women in Holland Village Methodist Church have included their families in the exercise by designating a recycled glass jar per family to collect the money saved (pic below, and bottom right). Ang Mo Kio Methodist Church’s WSCS distributed drawstring pouches with information on the reasons for observing PSD Week.
These simple acts are practical reminders of how we can do more for others. The focus is not on frugality, but on thinking beyond ourselves to give our funds as well as our time and talents.
Funds collected are consolidated at the Annual Conference levels, and subsequently distributed to the causes approved by the Finance and the Executive Committees at the respective Conference levels (see box on right).
These small steps spark awareness of the need for self-denial. While we may not yet be ready to die for others, we are moving away from a stance of self-fulfillment as a priority, towards self-denial and loving others in a prayerful and sacrificial way. We are learning to proclaim Christ through acts of giving and blessing beyond ourselves. If you ever catch us taking a selfie in the mission field, it is not for you to see us, but so that all will see the great needs to be met in the field.
Dr Lee Li Bee and Eunice Yeo –
are the President and the Discipleship & Nurture Coordinator respectively of the General Conference Women’s Society of Christian Service.
Photos courtesy of the General Conference Women’s Society of Christian Service