I am not a photographer. I once toyed with the idea of buying a great camera and learning to take beautiful pictures, but that would require me to be a little more artsy than I am. I am pretty sure photography is not in the cards for me, however I do appreciate the talent I see from other photo-artists.
It’s not so much that I am unable to point a camera and push a button as it is that I just don’t grasp the artistic concepts they create. For example, engagement photos. I see them and I am like, “Oh look! She’s engaged…and she’s in a graffiti covered alley somewhere downtown. Why is she in that creepy alley? Is that her fiancé, pinning her up against that brick wall, or a mugger? Should we call the police? Is this a cry for help?”
Or there are the family photos…on a couch…in a corn field. I am confused right off the bat with this one. Why is this whole family in a corn field? Why is there a couch there? Why do they all match their mother- even the middle schoolers? If I were walking through a field and came upon a whole family smiling on a couch, I’d think I had wandered onto the set of a really scary movie. Family in the corn.
And then there are the graduate photos. A high school girl is leaning against a barn. A very old barn. A barn that is being held together by one half of a rusted nail that has been teetering there for one hundred years. And I am nervous for her safety. And I had no idea that she was into farming. Or that people made shorts that tiny.
Let’s talk about the beach photos. A family, all dressed in white shirts and denim capris, even the guys-manpris, are holding hands together and walking into the ocean. And all I am thinking is, “Those shirts are white. Just…no. And also, how did they get their teenage son to dress like his mother? And how far are they going to go? And why are they walking into the ocean fully clothed? Is that a favorite family pastime for them they are wanting to document? Some families like board games. Some families play sports. Some families walk fully clothed into the ocean? I am confused.”
Then there’s my personal favorite, the musician photo. This is where a guy happens to be on a beach, barefoot, in a white suit, playing a grand piano in the sand. And all I can think about is, “How deep is that piano going to sink into the sand? Why is a piano on the beach? What happens when the tide comes in? Does he keep playing?”
I could go on and on. There are the videos of pastors who are teaching while holding a coffee mug and meandering down an abandoned train track, or women teaching a Bible study from the inside of an old warehouse. And I just keep thinking, “Girl, why are you in that warehouse? I thought women were generally taught to avoid the empty creepy warehouse scene. And pastor, where are you going on that train track? Why didn’t you just buy a train ticket and teach us from your train car?”
All of these things, though artistic and interesting have one thing in common. They are staged. Nobody believes that these images are reality for these families. People don’t really hang with their family on the couch in a field. We don’t play our piano in the ocean. That couple didn’t get engaged in a dark alley (at least I hope not). And men don’t wear capris. Ok…that part is true, sadly. But the point is that so much of what we photograph and value and put out there for all to see is not reality. It is staged. And that is perfectly fine and cool if it’s a family photo we are talking about. But it is not fine if it is our life, our reputation, our walk with God. That has to be real. When we spiff up on Sunday and smile sweetly at our class and share our deep spiritual insight just moments after losing our tempers and telling our kids off, we are not real. When we get up on stage and strum our guitar while serenely singing an alto line for worship the morning after we hurtfully slandered another sister in Christ, we are not real. When we share our super strong opinions about how things should be done in the church but don’t actually lift a finger to help in the areas we are supposedly passionate about, we are not real. When we talk about loving God, but we spend almost no time with Him. We are not real.
Do you know what you call someone who talks to God when no one else is around to hear it? You call them a Christian.
So what is my point? Is it that we need to be authentic? To share where we really are spiritually? Yes, but that’s not enough. That is like a diagnosis with no treatment. We need more than to just stop staging spiritual fruit where it is not really growing. We need more than just openness and authenticity. We need transformation. I can be real with you not because I want to air my dirty laundry, but because I want you to come and fight for my holiness. I want you to strengthen my walk with Christ. You are authentic with your people not so that you can high five each other that you’re not alone in that particular struggle but so that you can fight for each others holiness! You can point each other back to Jesus. We are to confess our sins to one another not so that we can feel understood, but so that we can be healed! I’m not going to rub your back and say “there there” about your sin. I’m going to do everything in my power to pull you out of it! If I am sinking in quicksand, I don’t need a hug on the way down. I need rescue. That is the church. That is your small group. That is why we cannot keep staging our spiritual lives to look like something they are not. When we are not real, we rob ourselves of the rescue that could come through the people God has put in our lives. We are family. We are one. We have been given everything we need for change. Let’s live reality. Let’s let each other in to fight for our hearts. Let’s stop with the staging. Nobody is buying it anyways.
*My blogs are written with the assumption that they are being read primarily by Christians. If you want to know more about what it means to be a Christian or about the gospel of Jesus Christ, click the link here:The Gospel