The picture above is not one I expect to ever have published or sell. In fact, it’s downright bad. But to me it is a thing of beauty.
All I did was walk out my front door, Point (not aim) the camera towards a section of the quarry across the street and snap a shot shooting into the air. You see, for a month or so now, my camera developed a slight smudge on all it’s images about 2/3 the way up and centered. It was slight, so it did not show in dark images, but on skies, it was there.
I worked around it. I shot more indoor shots, more shots of color and busy backgrounds. In some cases I used software and was able to “erase” the smudge.
I didn’t want to deal with the smudge for all kinds of oh so human reasons. I didn’t want to stop shooting pictures. I make part of my living as a photographer and it’s something I love, almost an extension of me and not having it for a time would hurt, in more ways than one. I was also afraid that the smudge would turn out to be something expensive, maybe so expensive I might have to replace the camera and this is not a time in my life that I have spare money for a new camera. I could fake it pretty well. It wasn’t so bad.
So I worked around it. I avoided shots I could not do. I faked it.
Then last week I had a series of conversations with several people and one group that changed me. Not just for the camera (although one of the first results of that change was sending the camera off to get fixed), but in general.
In all of these conversations, I was talking to people and groups who had problems. Medical problems. Physical problems. Financial problems. Emotional problems. Spiritual problems. Between the conversations, they covered the waterfront.
These weren’t new problems. In fact, they had been going on for a long time, and they were avoiding actually doing anything about them for all the same reasons I had been avoiding dealing with my camera. Money. Fear of it being much worse. They could work around them.
But time catches up with that. Don’t do the maintenance and things break down. This is true of things, people, hearts, souls, relationships, whatever. I’ve seen it happen in others, and I have seen it happen in my own life.
What I have learned, is that I need people in my life to help me sort through things. Doctors for my body. Counselors for my emotion. People of mature faith for my soul. Professionals for my work. These may be professionals, but at the very least they need to be people who know and care about me, who see me at my best, see me when I veer from my best, and who can guide me, gently, in love and kindness and understanding who I am, to a better place.
It’s not just enough to have those people “around”. I need to involve them in my life. Share my joys, failures, struggles, confusion, desire, talents and the dark places I’d rather ignore or erase. It means I have to be (gasp!) vulnerable.
I have learned, the hard way. What happens when we neglect to do this is simple. “Things fall apart.” as William Butler Yeats writes. We fall apart. Neglect to be part of a large group with people who can counsel us, and whose counsel we put to work, means we are not effectively doing the routine maintenance on our lives that we should be doing.
And things fall apart. Last week’s round of conversations, all coming at me from all sides at once hit me like a ton of bricks. I saw emotional issues not dealt with that were pulling families and relationships apart, I saw companies not dealing with key issues slowly eroding. I saw churches not dealing with large issues while patching the small ones. I saw health issues ignored and ignored and ignored again.
And in most of the conversations, things have eroded. They are near the falling apart place, where it no longer holds together, no longer has the solid foundation. There are going to be disasters in some of these lives. At this point, it’s unavoidable. Some of the pieces may be redeemable afterwards. Some will not. A great deal will be lost that does not have to be.
And in every case. EVERY CASE! It could have been avoided.
Like I said, I’ve been there. I have had points in my life where I tried to deal with my struggles alone, even as they grew to be more than I could deal with alone. It was only when I turned to people who were both wise, and could see my wholeness as well as my flaws to help guide me.
Psalm 32:1 (I bet you were wondering when that would come in, weren’t you?) was in my bible reading this morning. It reads. “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.”
That is what the loving spirit does. The broken person realizes that their helper sees their wholeness, sees their potential, sees their best self. Part of why we don’t deal with issues in our lives is shame.
Our world tells us the myth of the self made man. We are supposed to be able to do everything, handle everything ourselves. But that is a lie. A few bull through, often damaging others in their climb, but most of us limp through, when we could be flying. Most of us crawl to the finish line, when we could dance.
A loving spirit, a group of wise people who see our best and remind us of it often, but still have the wisdom to gently guide us through our flaws and struggles, removes that shame, lifts that feeling that we are not worthy. When we are told that we are saved from sin, perhaps the biggest part of that saving is the removal of shame that lets us reconnect with people, and with God.
And it is that connection that helps us heal and grow.
At 57, I have seen it. In my own life, and in the lives of others. When we have loving, wise people for our health, souls, relationships, emotions and work, then we do well, have more joy, less shame. We spend our lives living, not struggling. We have less to hide, more to rejoice about. Things may fall apart, but we build faster than how we fall apart.
When we were kids, our parents were all over us about the company we kept. They knew being surrounded by positiveness and goodness was healthy for us. And it is no less healthy now.
Where are you broken? Where are you struggling? Do you have people in your lives who are not just mechanics, but healers? People who are not just wise in their fields but who have invested time in getting to know you? If not, go find them. Find your joy. Let me tell you as someone who has traveled from joy to the depths, and back again, that journey to a better place begins when we give ourselves to loving wisdom.
It’s what God wants for us. It’s part, I think, of why he did not want man to be alone. We are made for relationship, not aloneness. Relationship, whether it is with God, or with those that love us, gives us the opportunity to lean on others when we need it, be treated when we are ill, find solutions when we have none, rise again when we are broken.
Off my soap box. It’s just that the little things in life are always reteaching me big lessons. I sometimes can’t help myself. But for now, I am going to go out and take some pictures.