As I continue to reflect on my word for 2021, Endures, especially in this month, I have to look back in order to heal and move forward. Endurance isn’t just for now, it’s a remembrance of what was and how we came through it.
I’ve been thinking lately about how when you look at an image, you really don’t see beyond the face. In an image driven culture, faces are everywhere, and in public spaces, more specifically, social media, they are mostly happy.
There is no requirement to share the many layers of story that sit behind a face or a place. Photos are easy. We put on a smile, snap a shot and post it for whoever wants to see it. We don’t have to answer questions or divulge what really is going on in our lives. In fact, usually a post like this reassures those around us that, “Oh ok, they’re good.”
Last year, Holy Week began as a fun adventure and turned into a stressful nightmare – continuing into the next several months of 2020. I had recruited my husband to help me film an Easter message since we couldn’t have a traditional egg hunt at church. We sat in the yard trying to get takes between lawn mowers buzzing through our neighbors’ yards. We got it done and were both excited to show it to the families, including some pretty hilarious outtakes.
On Easter Sunday, I posted this picture:
It’s a tradition I’ve participated in since I was a child. We get all dressed up and we take photos. But what can you tell about me from this photo?
- Can you tell that I had panic attacks the previous two days because of technology mishaps with the Egg Hunt and Good Friday services?
- Can you tell that a growing conflict was getting more intense between myself and one of my co-workers?
- Can you tell that I felt guilty for continually having to defend a decision to work from home for the safety and well being of those around me due to a dangerous virus?
For the sake of my mental health, I did not engage with my usual responsibilities on Easter Sunday. I asked others to step in on my behalf and I thought that would be OK. It was a difficult decision for me, because I had ALWAYS gone above and beyond to take care of my responsibilities, especially for these special festivals. But the weight of all of these struggles were more than I could bear.
For just a few hours, I let go of the struggle, I gave it up to God and was able to relax. I wore a smile on my face because I was genuinely excited to celebrate the Risen Savior on Easter. Just a couple of days later, I was scolded for posting this picture because everyone else involved in the situation was angry. I was told I had abandoned the team and my duties, so how could I be so happy? I attempted to care for myself at an inconvenient time and an assumption was made of me from a single picture.
How about this picture? What can you tell about me from this photo?
Clearly I am at a hospital and in some pain after a gall bladder attack.
- Can you tell that Jack had beaten some dangerous storms on his motorcycle and raced home to be by my side?
- Can you tell that just the week before my husband had hit rock bottom in his mental health battle and we were still reeling?
- Can you tell that I felt comfortable enough to let my family, friends and community know about my personal health issues, but hadn’t told anyone about Jack’s struggles and mine as his caregiver?
We were trying to make the best of what was going on. We were together, I was getting medical treatment and everything was going to be OK.
Here’s one more for you.
What do you see in this photo? Based on the month and the date, perhaps it was around election time. The country was buzzing because of the possibility of our first woman president. We had just voted.
- Can you tell that my eyes were red from crying?
- Can you tell that we had some serious life conversations just hours before this?
I don’t at all recall what conversations we had, but I look at this picture, and all the others ones I’ve shown you, with a perspective that is much different from yours.
Why post these photos? Important life events are happening and I want to share with family and friends. What you see is not the whole story, but that doesn’t mean I am trying to put on a facade. I don’t post for anyone’s satisfaction or judgement. Just because you see something, doesn’t mean you have a relationship with me or know the whole story.
Here are some photos to look at in the midst of Holy Week, can you get the whole story from what you see?
On the left: A stained glass window with a language I can’t read; and many people touring the space.
On the right: There are many stones that form steps, traveling up and down a hill.
- Can you imagine that this was the place where Jesus gathered with his disciples for the Last Supper?
- Can you imagine this is where Jesus washed his disciples feet, knowing there would be betrayal, denial and fear just a few hours later?
- Can you imagine this is the road Jesus and his disciples traveled on after the Last Supper, down to the Garden of Gethsemane?
- This same road became the journey of Jesus’ trial, up to Pilates’ and back down to Jerusalem to be crucified.
A picture only shows a face or a place. A relationship tells a much deeper story. As we wrap up another month in 2021 and keep moving forward, we do so in the midst of Holy Week. We enter with Jesus’s command on Maundy Thursday, to love one another by serving first. Jesus spent three years with these disciples and followers and developed relationships where he could preach and teach God’s radical love. He gave them purpose and set the example. He endured so that we could continue to endure.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.Hebrews 12:1-3, NIV
In this Holy Week, may you look beyond the picture of the cross into the life and death of Jesus Christ. The joy, hospitality, honesty about sin and love, genuine concern and willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for you and for me. These truths lead us to the empty tomb, a vision we could have never imagined would be possible.