Perfect family photo, right? The sun is cascading on the blue water, the clouds creating shadows of color, the outfits planned to match, and everyone is smiling. It almost seems unreal….and it is. Unreal, that is. Let’s talk about what was really going on in this “perfect family photo.”
This was one of our more stressful days of 2015. Me being a Type A personality, I spent several days prior to this photo shoot trying to make the perfect combination of outfits so that we would “match without matching.”
The backdrop of this photo is stunning. And it was somewhat stunning that day as well. Stunning to wake up before the sun gets up, trying to get a two-year-old looking presentable in time to get to the beach before sunrise. Stunning to deal with a husband who doesn’t like sand on his feet…at all….ever. Stunning to be practically run over several times by the huge seaweed-raking tractor man. Stunning to dodge crashing waves so as not to be soaked before we get even one good shot. Stunning to chase after our son who didn’t understand that we were at the beach to stand in one place and smile versus throw sand and run races. Stunning.
And let’s be real, folks….photoshop is all over this. We did have a talented photographer that patiently worked with us. But that talented photographer also has some mad editing skills. In fact, some might say the skill of editing is more important these days than the actual act of taking the photos. With technology, we can turn photos into whatever we want them to be. These days there is a blurred line between reality and fiction.
And how about those smiles? It’s a miracle that we are all smiling at the same time. We had so little time to get these shots before the sun rose completely, and our son was not cooperating at all. (the seaweed tractor guy was also a real downer) Steve and I were beyond frustrated. So, it’s possible these smiles include some clenched teeth. And I know for a fact that by this point, I had broken out into a cold sweat from the stress of wanting it all to work out “perfectly.” Our son is probably smiling because he just pinched his Dad in the gut or something equivalent.
All in all, a most stressful day for our family. But you would never know it by looking at that photo. And that is a great example of our world today. We live in a social media frenzy of “perfect.” People post photos of their “perfect” all day long. They tweet about their “perfect” or snap chat about someone else’s “not-so-perfect” in order to make their “perfect” more perfect-er. Yep, perfecter.
And then we all compare ourselves to the others. We see all those uber-white teeth smiles and those hand-on-the-hip poses that make people look thinner and we see their kids all lined up in their matching polo shirts. We see the date nights at the fancy restaurant that we can’t afford and the vacation photos with the hashtag #paradise. And we see awards dinners and kids with perfect attendance and dogs that can do cartwheels and…and…and…the list goes on and on.
But, how much of that is reality and how much of it is fiction? And do you think those people are going to post a photo of their recent drag-out fight with their husband or a full description of how their kid just got busted for drugs or maybe tweet a hashtag #thislifeissohardifeellikequitting. Could all those things be happening? Sure. Do we see those realities on our social media feed? Nope. Do we even see it when we pass them in the hall at church. Probably not. Do we see it when we sit next to them at small group? Maybe not even there.
In AA (alcoholics anonymous) they have a saying, “Don’t compare your insides with other people’s outsides.”
God never asked us to compare ourselves to those around us or try to be like the Jones’. He asks us to be like Jesus. To follow HIS example:
Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 John 2: 4-6
Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way HE walked. And He always walked in truth. God’s insides are the same as His outsides. He’s not hiding anything. He has given us all we need to follow Him. And we only need His approval. Just His.
Friends, let’s compare our insides with Jesus’ insides only….and let’s pray that the love of Christ is what people see on our outsides. And even if our insides are a “work in progress,” let’s not hide that from the people God has placed in our lives. There is no perfect this side of heaven. But we serve a perfect God and he gives us a lot of grace for our not-so-perfect ways.
When I look at our “perfect family photo,” I see the realness of what is on the outside and what is on the inside. I repent of my desire to hide the sin that’s on the inside, and I give thanks for the forgiveness I receive from God. I pray that I am able to be as Christ-like as possible…on the inside and on the outside. No photoshop necessary.