On my drive to work I passed, what appeared to be, a photo shoot on the sidewalk of a rather unglamorous road with nothing but shabby looking, overgrown grass on the other side. I gathered it was an engagement photo shoot, from the couple in dressy casual clothes, awkwardly holding each other and trying to smile without laughing. My first thought was I cannot possibly imagine a worse location for a romantic photo shoot. Then I realized the truth that every good photographer already knows. The only scenery that matters is what you include in the frame of your shot.
If you frame the shot right, a pile of old junk becomes rustic charm, a dirty back alley becomes an urban paradise, a few yards of unkept grass becomes an endless golden field. When these photos are released they will tell a completely different story from the reality. It will be a beautiful story. A story of a couple in love watching the sunrise over the grassy hill. And no one besides them and their photographer will have any idea they were on a sidewalk beside Citrus Tower Boulevard a couple blocks from CVS.
It made me start thinking about how we frame up our lives in the same way. We present little snapshots of ourselves, our families, our careers, etc… through status updates, tweets, blogs, and brief surface conversations. All hoping to frame up the shot just right so that none of the ugly stuff makes it in. I’m not saying this in a condemning way, cause I don’t really want to read about or see pictures of everything that stinks about your life on facebook. Although some people do that too, which is really just a different way of framing the shot to get a different kind of response. No one’s life is all good or all bad. Each of us has a huge array of scenery to choose from and it only makes since that we choose the one that gets the reaction we’re looking for…admiration, envy, love, sympathy, whatever.
The problem is, our own lives may seem a little underwhelming when we compare it to the steady stream of perfectly cropped and edited photos unfolding on our computer screen. It can sometimes make us envious or discouraged about our reality because we know all of the good, bad and ugly of our own lives. We know our weaknesses and failures. We know all of the stuff that we try to keep out of the frame and away from the eyes of the world.
One of the things I love about the Bible is how it doesn’t frame up the shot very well on any of its so-called “heroes.” All of them, and I mean ALL of them (with the notable exception of the Son of God) were terribly flawed individuals with only small glimpses of glory mixed in. Abraham tried to give his wife away to save his own tail…twice. Noah went on an epic bender leaving him drunk and naked on the floor of his tent in front of his son. David had a dude killed and took his wife. Peter hid in shame and fear like a coward when Jesus was arrested and crucified. Paul participated in the persecution and murder of Christians before becoming one himself. All of these men and many, many more were tragically flawed. The Bible could have recorded their stories the way most ancient history did, by glossing over the blemishes and only mentioning the great stuff. But can you imagine the crushing weight that it would have put on us. To read stories about great, perfect men and know that we could never be like them. We could never do those things. We could never be that good, that dedicated, that compassionate.
But the Bible doesn’t do that. It shows us the whole scene with all of its glory and horror, whether we like it or not. And it does this to show us a simple yet beautiful truth. God’s love is not reserved for perfect people. It is for jerks, cowards, losers and adulterous murderers. It’s for me, the real me, with all the gritty, embarrassing junk that I keep behind the closed doors and dark hallways of my heart.
The only perfect man who ever lived chose to take the weight of my shame and imperfection on his own shoulders and offer me His perfection as a covering. I don’t have to frame up the shot for Him. He sees the whole thing anyway. I’m free to be weak because Christ was strong for me. I am free to be flawed because He is perfect for me. I’m free to be less than because He is more than enough.