Picture This

It’s the thing I dread most about having my book published. No, it’s not getting negative reviews. While I’m not eager for those, the need for thick skin is preached at every conference new authors attend. It’s part of the process. And other than my husband forbidding me from ever letting my favorite author read my book (like I thought it would happen) because, “She could say one hundred good things, but you would focus on the one negative and decide never to write again”, I’ve made my peace with the fact that my book will not be for everyone. No, negative comments aren’t my fear.

At the risk of opening myself up to ridicule, the most difficult part is accepting that I have to put my picture on the back of the book. I’ve procrastinated as long as I can. Secretly I’ve hoped my publisher would say, “Forget the picture. We’re not putting author pictures on books anymore.”

My Facebook page features my book cover. I don’t have my picture on my blog, Twitter, or Instagram. Our family snapshots are suspiciously void of me. Someone had to take those pictures, right? I’ve never liked the way I look in photos. So, I avoid them. Putting one on a book? That’s way out of my comfort zone.

Please realize, as I write this, my anxiousness increases. I fear that by bringing this up, it will encourage everyone who has read this post to immediately turn the book over and look at the photo. It’s not that the photo is poorly done. It isn’t. It’s not the quality of the photography. It’s the subject.

I don’t have to look perfect. I don’t spend time on makeup or making sure my hair is perfectly in place. I’m not the one spending hours primping or checking myself in every mirror I pass. So, why does it bother me to have photos taken?

I think it’s because photos mercilessly show me the things I don’t want to see while allowing others to see them too. I realize everyone I meet sees those things anyway, but it feels different when one single moment in time is frozen forever. If I met you on the street, you might miss some things. If you look at the picture, those things will be unavoidable. You’ll see how unruly my hair can be thanks to cowlicks and a lack of body. Depending on how bad a hair day it was, you might see my ears sticking out thanks to DNA from my dad’s side of the family. I can’t even pretend that you might miss my extra weight. I like to call it baby weight, but my baby is 15. That ship has sailed. There’s no baby. It’s just weight.

I know admitting there are things I don’t like about myself is taboo in today’s culture. I’ve heard all the messages on loving yourself because God created you just the way you are. I believe it too. It’s something I’m working on. But let’s be honest, I’m pretty sure there are things you might not like about yourself too. Doesn’t make it right, but you understand where I’m coming from. That isn’t my goal in sharing this with you. It even made me hesitate in writing it, because I don’t want a bunch of comments about accepting myself (Other comments are appreciated though!). I use my struggle only as a way to stress a much more important point. We need to understand that sometimes, it’s uncomfortable to take a good look at ourselves, and I’m not just talking about physically.

As hesitant as we may be, we need to take a good look at our spiritual photos. It’s easy in the hustle and bustle of life and ministry to pretend we’re where we need to be. It’s easy to feel good about ourselves when we don’t slow down long enough to really see who we are. However, when we look at ourselves honestly through the lens of God’s word, we begin to see those areas that aren’t so picture perfect. We see we struggle with love, joy, peace, and all the other fruits of the Spirit. We see that while we are called to have the mind of Christ, often we think more highly of ourselves than we should. We see where we fail to take care of widows and orphans while also neglecting the call to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. What about loving God with all our hearts, souls, and minds and loving our neighbors as ourselves? And these are just the obvious things in scripture. We haven’t talked about harboring unforgiveness, anger, or lust in our hearts.

So often we fail, but we have hope. When we come to God, asking Him to show us a clear picture of who were are spiritually, He will do it. His Spirit lives in each one of us to guide us and convict us. He will show us our sins whether they are open for the world to see or hidden deep inside. He doesn’t do it so we wallow in guilt. He does it to grow us.

When I look at my picture I see things I don’t like. But you know what? I can do something about a lot of those things. I can lose weight. I can work to find a flattering haircut. Our spiritual photos are even better. I can’t do anything about my ears sticking out, but there isn’t anything God can show us about ourselves spiritually that He can’t help us overcome. Romans encourages us to be transformed through the renewing of our minds. Scripture promises there is no temptation that doesn’t also have a way to escape it. We are more than conquerors, not because of anything we have done but because of Who lives in us giving us power to overcome.

Don’t get me wrong. Scripture never says it will be easy. Some things may take years to photoshop out of our spiritual portraits. But the end result is a life that looks more like Jesus, and that makes it worth the effort.

By the Book: Take time to evaluate your spiritual photo. Begin with the scriptures referenced above. An internet search of some of the phrases will take you to the scriptures. Or if you know some of them, feel free to leave them in the comments for other readers.

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