Ah, hello God.
I've had a moment. Just wanted to tell you. Not that you don't know already, because I'm pretty sure that you were behind it. Did you smile indulgently as the penny dropped?
It was one of those lightbulb moments where two seemingly unrelated things suddenly link up and I get to make the connection.
|Just out of shot was a huge crowd.|
The camera doesn't always
tell the truth...
There I was, sitting on a bench at the harbour in a little seaside village last week on holiday. The sun was shining and Bryan and the girls were crabbing. I had the camera slung around my neck and I'd been taking photos of the boats moored along the jetty, the light on the water and the joy on my girls' faces as they carefully landed the crabs. It was a special few minutes. Quiet, the sun warm on my face, everyone happy and a chance to sit on my own with my eyes closed. Mmm.
I was thinking about the photographs. The previous night I'd loaded onto my Facebook page a handful of holiday snaps taken earlier on in the week and I was planning to add a few more from this day. We'd been out in a boat, seen seals on a sandbank and sailing boats sending up sparkling spray as they splooshed past. Should be some decent pictures, I thought.
Anyone looking at my Facebook page would think that it had been the perfect holiday. The perfect family on a perfect holiday having a perfect time. Never a cross word, never a tantrum, never a duff moment, no rain, no clouds, no seaweed, no jarring notes.
The best photos get posted, with captions pointing out the exciting things we're doing and all the fun we're having. I 'check in' at lovely places and share the endearing things that the children say. I post my best pictures; the shiniest, sparkliest, most beautiful photographs. Perfect.
It struck me that I post the pride things. The boast things. The I'm doing great things. I joked about it with a good friend; we might send a text to each other saying, 'Help! I'm having a nightmare!' and post on Facebook 'What a wonderful day at the beach!'
The photographs made the point for me, though. Only the best make the cut. Not the shaky ones, or the ones showing that the lens had a mark on it, or the ones that are out of focus, or even the ones where the sun was behind a cloud, if I can help it. I don't post the ones that show things in an unflattering light, even if that's how they were. They don't make good photos. Wait till the sun comes out, and show people those shots. The others are private.
|The times when I feel crabby|
Why would I? Look, people, this is how disorganised I am! This is how depressing today was! Hmm.
I don't post the photo of all of us scowling because we got to a place and found it closed, and then had a collective tantrum. I don't post the one of me taken from an unflattering angle sprawling on the sofa, looking enormous with an open mouth and a furrowed brow, concentrating on a text message. That one got deleted straight away. Sometimes we even tweak the photographs with image-enhancing software to add more light if it was a bit dark, or to airbrush out a blemish, adjust a wobbly horizon or even crop them to cut out of the shot the things we don't want. All so that we can present to the world the perfect picture.
Every picture tells a story. Just not the whole story.
Everybody does it. Even if we don't take photographs, we airbrush and crop and tint our public bits so that the best is on show and the worst lies on the floor of the cutting room. Aha. The camera can lie...
And while I'm having a moan, those Facebook posts are full of annoying exclamation marks. As you know, I'm not a fan of the exclamation mark and believe that they should be used sparingly but over and over again I read posts where people use them, consciously or unconsciously to indicate a high level of triumph and excitement and happiness.
'Having a wonderful time!'
'This was so funny!!'
'An amazing thing has happened to me!!!'
I'm just as bad. I may be wary of the exclamation mark but I'm definitely guilty of airbrushing. I hide so much from everyone - those close to me and those that I don't know so well. I don't want people to know that I lose my temper so often, or that I sulk when I don't get to do what I want to do, or that I'm snappy and mean when I should be kind and thoughtful. Crop. Airbrush. Delete. Smile, and post that.
Select the best. Discard the rest.
The strange thing is that while I fully recognise what I'm doing, and common sense and experience tells me that other people are doing it too, I fall for everyone else's publicity every time. What wonderful lives these people are living. How happy they seem. What a harmonious family. What well-behaved children. When these people go somewhere, it's open when they get there (actually, they were canny and booked in advance thus avoiding the queue, of course). When they look for somewhere to have lunch, the perfect cafe materialises immediately; they didn't spend an hour traipsing around with bad grace for an affordable place that wasn't too busy and a menu that contained things that the children would eat... no, that only happens to me. And I don't make it public.
If I'm busy airbrushing out my imperfections, why don't I assume that they are doing it too? Only posting the highlights? Why do I allow myself to be intimidated?
Why do I compare my worst bits with their best bits?
Don't get me wrong, I like to see people's holiday pictures. I like to hear about their successes and I know that we all do get moments where it all comes together; the opportunity, the subject matter, the light, the lens and the smile, and those moments should be celebrated. And shared. We should all join in the delight. If there are six people in a photo and all of them have their eyes open and a smile on their face, post the picture on Facebook! Let's enjoy it! But I should bear in mind that there were probably half a dozen where the sun had gone in, or a child refused to smile, or everyone had their heads cut off.
I need to remember that beneath the pinnacle of wonderful perfection there is a mountain of trial and failure and imperfection and blemish.
Let's be honest. It's not just me.
The punchline really isn't the realisation that I should stop comparing myself with other people and realise that what I see isn't necessarily the truth, or the whole truth - the most important thing that came to me the other day on that bench by the sea was that you see me.
You are El Roi; the God who sees me. You see the triumph and the disaster. You see the happy and the sad. You see the bits I try to airbrush and the bits I crop and the bits I don't post on Facebook for the world to see. You see everything there is to see - and you love me anyway. I don't have to try to edit myself or my life to impress you; I couldn't if I tried. You see it all. You know my words before I speak them and my hopes and dreams and fears and failures. And you love me anyway.
Lord, thankyou that you see me. I can be me. I can give you the blurred edges and accidents and out of focus moments. I can lay it all in front of you. Thankyou for that immense, all consuming love that paid the price for me even when I was far, far away.
Thankyou for this moment. Thankyou for showing me.