Today is picture day at school for the girls. So today as we were frantically fixing hair and practicing smiles, I remembered what I learned the last time our family had pictures taken. Then, God taught me where to look and how to smile ... in life.
It happened like this:
I knew it was impossible. It simply couldn’t be done. Yet there we sat, all eight of us, trying to pose for a photo of the family. Yes, it was crazy.
The baby fussed. The two-year-old jumped up and down and then tried to stand on his head. The five-year-old twins looked everywhere but the camera. The eight-year-old attempted to get the two-year-old to stand up, and the oldest kept making faces at the baby, hoping to get her to stop crying. I waved my hand in front of the group and tried to get them to look forward.
I grimaced. Just what I needed, a professional picture of my blurry hand to send to friends and relatives.
The photographer stood behind the camera and motioned with one hand. “Let’s try that again. Stand closer together please, and look at the camera.”
We squeezed in. The baby stopped crying. Jayden stuck a finger up his nose. Joelle pulled it out. “Look at the cam--”
The photographer adjusted the camera. “Everyone look here and smile.”
“Little boy, look at me.”
Bethany twisted around. “Jayna!”
Everyone squirmed. And wiggled. And complained.
“Joelle’s not looking at the camera.”
“Well, neither are you.”
“Bethany’s not looking either.”
“I am too.”
“No, you’re not.”
“Bria stop closing your eyes.”
“Dad’s not smiling.”
“Jayden, stop it.”
Jayna jumped down from the short box she was standing on. “Are we done?”
The photographer shook his head. “Not yet.” He pulled a big stuffed frog from a basket on his left. It was a floppy thing with wide feet and a red mouth. He slapped it on his head. The legs drooped down over his forehead. Then he made funny noises. Jayden giggled. Jayna rubbed her nose.
The frog waggled.
The kids wiggled.
“Everyone just look at the frog-headed man!” I shouted.
They all looked up, even the baby.
The photographer peeked from around the camera. “Mom, you too, please.”
“What? Oh yeah.” I stared and the frog and pasted on a smile.
The photographer breathed out a sigh. “I think we got it.”
“Really? Everyone’s looking? Their eyes are all open?”
“Yep, this is a good one.”
And it was... all eight of us looking at the camera and most even smiling.
That day, I discovered that the only way to get a good picture was by all fixing our eyes on the frog-headed man. When one of us stopped looking ahead, and instead gazed off in our own direction or when we started looking at each other and telling each other to "look at the camera, smile, don't close your eyes," we couldn't get a decent picture. It was only when each person decided to focus and smile, and let the photographer correct the others, that we got a good picture at last.
I was reminded of Hebrews 12:2 (NIV), where we're encouraged to "fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith." Life in Christ works a lot like a family photo. The only way to get a good shot is if I fix my eyes on Jesus rather than looking around to see if everyone else is doing it right. When I fix my eyes on Jesus, and keep them there, he will perfect my faith. When I fix my eyes on how others are falling short, my own faith falters.
I’ve found that life works a lot better when I allow God to correct others, to help them look forward and smile. When I try to play God for them, then I stop looking where I need to look. I also stop smiling. So from now on, I’m going to allow Jesus to be the true photographer in my life, and in the lives of those around me. And I hope he won’t need to wear a frog on his head to keep my attention.