In March of 2012, I wrote a piece with my writing group about pictures of old boyfriends. I realized that with some of these guys, we only took photos standing next to each other. As I wrote back then: “We made sense together, standing side-by-side. But failing to turn around and look at each other face-to-face, to really look at each other directly in the eyes, we never saw who we were in the deep, dark parts – the blackness of our pupils, the cloudy irises never captured on film.”
I realized too that I didn’t want photos taken with the guy I was dating at that time because, as I wrote then, it was as if “having photos of us will make it just that – us. And I’m not ready to be an ‘us.’ I just want me to be me and you to be you. I want to know who you are before I give ‘us’ a name. But whatever this is, it’s not mine to define. Because my life it not my own, and the big picture is out of my grasp.”
Part of what I came to understand was that these pictures weren’t representative of the life God had for me. I think I sensed back then, although I couldn’t fully articulate it, that God was writing a different story…
“Sometimes I’d like to just invent a picture and make it my own. Insert myself in a Grecian vacation in a magazine ad, a Brazilian rainforest, a Napa vineyard. Open up an Anthropologie catalog and move in on page 26.
But I can’t just paint the picture I want – the manifestation of my expectations. I need to embrace the season I’m in. The seasons of a woman’s life. Is this winter – the coldness and deadness before the coming of spring and new life? Or am I in the fall, where the colors are changing, but the stark winter is still to come?
Seek first his kingdom. Seek his face. Look to the picture of grace, and everything else will fall into place. The beauty of an “if-then” statement, the certainty that comes with God’s promises. If you seek me, you will find me. And that is when I know who I am – God’s daughter, his precious child, the one he envisioned a long time ago, whom he was excited to meet, to see grow and change, to shape into his form through loving correction, hardship, discipline. A good and loving father is our God. Oh, my God. “Save me, Jesus” – three words are all that are required. In three words we experience wholeness and newness. The Godhead three-in-one, Father, Spirit, Son. We are not alone. We are the picture of Christ. And he dwells in us. His Spirit stays with us through spring, summer, fall winter. He never changes, the father of lights. Light up my darkness, shed light on the places I don’t want to explore, the places I’m even unaware of. Don’t let me stay stagnant. Atrophied. Unused. Use me, Father, for your glory, for your good, for your picture. Paint me by the blood of your lamb.”
Since writing that two years ago, God has been opening me up in ways I never could have imagined. He’s so faithful. My first love (Revelation 2:4). The “best boyfriend ever,” as my friend Ono would say. He’s romanced me and drawn me closer to him, and I couldn’t be more grateful.
And I know he’s not finished. He’s continuing to dig up roots of worry and control in my life so that he can plant new and beautiful things in my heart – peace, trust, faith, hope. Compared to where I was two years ago, I’m a more vulnerable person. (Special shout out to Brene Brown!) Softer, able to be molded.
And I don’t just mean my heart. I’m not getting any younger here…but I’m more comfortable with the way my body is changing to catch up with my old soul. The laugh lines that are starting to show around my eyes remind me of the way my friends make me laugh so hard I cry. My one gray hair I’ve discovered really does feel like “a crown of splendor” (Proverbs 16:31).
With that, I’m no longer scared of the photographs that capture me at this point in time. For a long while, I’ve viewed myself as through the lens of a camera – wondering what other people saw. Every day, I’m learning more and more to view myself in light of what God says to be true about me. That I’m his daughter, beloved, living in his unshakable kingdom. He sings over me (Zephaniah 3:17)! How amazing is that?
More than ever before, I have such confidence in what God is doing in and around me. I know he’s writing a beautiful story, and I want to loosen my grip on the pen and let him continue that good work. Having recently finished Bob Goff’s inspiring book Love Does, I want to leave you with one last thought:
“Being engaged is a way of doing life, a way of living and loving. It’s about going to extremes and expressing the bright hope that life offers us, a hope that makes us brave and expels darkness with light. That’s what I want my life to be all about – full of abandon, whimsy, and in love.” (Bob Goff, Love Does)
So, here’s to the story God is writing with each of our lives. To the pictures that are captured along the way, reminding us of his goodness and grace. To a fully engaged life. To love.