I was at a conference for Catholic writers, and there he was across the room—a writer, nay, a theologian whom I greatly admire and respect. I wandered over to introduce myself and make a little small talk. We talked of God and poetry and the state of the world in under five minutes, and then without thinking, I pulled out my phone and asked to take a selfie.
I cringe now even thinking of it. Even the seconds after I asked, I cringed inside. Because how could I have cheapened the moment like that?
I was really excited to meet him. I wanted to share the moment online and with a friend who respects him too.
I ruined it all.
He was gracious. Who knows what he was thinking? He probably was not experiencing the inner turmoil I felt inside. I wasn’t honoring him.
It’s not that each time I take a selfie with someone I am not honoring the person. Sometimes it is truly organic—a moment of sheer bliss that I want to capture for the scrapbook or for looking at on my phone when I am missing a friend.
But this wasn’t that.
I made the moment about me. I made it about showing off and highlighting my great accomplishment of simply walking over and saying hello, instead of the real accomplishments of this great thinker and artist, who guides us to new ways of seeing and encountering Jesus each day.
I thanked the writer, and we parted ways. I slipped around the corner and looked at the photo. The photo looked like any other selfie, prime for sharing on social media: two writers meeting at a conference. Our smiles big. Both of us unsure where to look at the camera. But if I looked a little closer, at my heart, not at the appearance of the photo, I knew my heart was in the wrong place.
I deleted the photo.
St. Paul says to “outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10) I know this is where I failed in doing so. I had said I respected that writer but didn’t treat him with respect.
I know the Holy Spirit was there in that very moment, trying to tune my heart to the heart of Jesus. I wish I had listened just a split second earlier.