I cheat every year.
The first morning of school is too frenetic in our household to stop and take photos on the way out the door. And my kids depart at differing times, making a group shot impossible. A few years ago, I began taking their pictures the night before school… or even a couple nights before. My goal is simply to capture what they looked like at this juncture in their lives… it doesn’t really matter to me that they don’t have a backpack on or that it wasn’t 7:45AM when I snapped the shutter.
If I take an honest look at my motivations, I admit I also prefer that their clothing is somewhat coordinated. I detoured from my Finance coursework in college and took a photography class, so I came to care whether colors and stripes conflicted or complemented. But we’re long past the days when I could mandate their ‘outfit’ for the first day of school. By taking photos on a different day, I manage to get a cohesive picture with a coordinating color scheme.
Here’s the shot I’m likely to hang in our home and send to grandparents.
Not bad, right? (Not awesome either… true photographers, please avert your gaze.)
From that photo, you’d likely infer that my children prefer one another’s company to that of their friends and that we live happily and harmoniously in our color-coordinated world every hour of every day.
But you’d be wrong.
Colors were the only things coordinating on this particular evening. One child was in tears for a great part of our outing, frustrated with a hair ‘situation’ that would be forever immortalized in our gallery. Another held obvious disdain for the whole process… and the despondent sibling. Out of love and respect for each of them, I won’t say who nor will I show you the ‘best of the worst’ photos, but here’s one that comes a little closer to the reality of our shoot.
They’re not all looking at the camera with happy faces in perfect unison of thought and purpose. You can readily observe some discord and distraction. This is a more accurate depiction of our daily life… in spite of the complementary clothing.
The first photo is far ‘better.’ More presentable… frame-able. Perhaps it will even elicit a compliment or two (ahem). Yet the way they look in the photo does not change the reality of the experience we shared that night… one that contained tears, mis-understandings, some harsh words, uncomfortable surroundings and, thankfully, a few laughs.
Much has been said about authenticity in recent years, extolling its importance. So much so that I fear we now laud ‘being authentic’ simply for the sake of itself, like a badge to wear on our shirts. Instead, I contend we should value authenticity for its true purpose: community. And community is a vital part of our spiritual growth.
Let’s find a way — each of us — to daily practice authenticity in our lives. Shall we admit to our Bible study group that we have doubts about God and our faith… that our Christian doctrine isn’t neatly tied up with a pretty bow? A fellow sojourner might be struggling with the same. Or discerningly tell someone that our marriages are faltering, even though we put on happy faces at social gatherings? You might just find a cheerleader or some wise counsel as a result of that decision to share. Perhaps choosing not to apologize for a messy home when a guest stops by unexpectedly (or even planned!) will liberate you and your friend from shared bondage to the appearance of ‘having it all together.’
Herein the Body of Christ does its best work in our lives.