Family Pictures

Williford Family Photo

In the last week I have twice been subjected to a form of torture most properly reserved for only the most deviant and devious of miscreants. I’m speaking of course of the family photo shoot.

The torture session began last Thursday as the sun began to set on Decatur Square here in Atlanta and was renewed last Saturday as the sun again began to set, this time over Wadley, GA, a place whose seclusion and utter desolation make it particularly well suited for such an unsavory activity.

Freshly shorn and properly instructed on what to wear and how to wear it (tuck that in, button that button, push up those sleeves), I dutifully arrived at Decatur Square at the fated hour. Then as the sun made its laborious, infinitesimal march toward the horizon I alternately turned my body just a little to the left and lifted my chin ever so slightly and looked deep into Julie’s eyes and gazed blankly off into the distance and generally made a fool of myself in front of the gathered crowd of Thursday evening revelers surrounding DeKalb County’s historic courthouse until the sun mercifully disappeared into the western sky.

And last Thursday was only the beginning of my torture. Freshly reacquainted with the horrors of the family photo session, I endured two long days of fear and trepidation as the second session approached on Saturday.

As it turns out, the hardship of Thursday was only a shadow of the discomfort awaiting me at a farm outside Wadley, GA.  And not even a real farm mind you, just some unused land.  As my four-year-old nephew helpfully pointed out, a farm is supposed to have tractors; this farm did not have tractors.

The farm was only a few miles from Wadley, which is only 10 miles outside of Louisville, which is only 25 miles outside of Waynesboro, which is only 30 miles from Augusta. Very convenient.

Our photographer on this occasion wielded the tools of her trade (wide-angle lenses, soft focus filters, the latest digital cameras, even the light of the sun!) with such cruel expertise and precision that even Torquemada would have been squeamish at the sight. Children masterfully manipulated, ladies artfully posed, men gently encouraged to “just look natural” until before you knew it, she had taken a carefully composed portrait where everyone looked perfect.

Everyone except me. My hair was askew, my eyes were closed and my body was decidedly NOT turned just so, as I in-artfully attempted to shew the gnats away from my face at just the wrong moment. No big deal…just the portrait that will hang over couches and in well-traveled hallways in homes scattered all over Eastern Georgia for years to come.

Such is life. Actually, we haven’t gotten ALL the pictures back yet. There’s still hope.  But if the unpleasantness I’ve already experienced in any way presages what is to come, then you can count on me being the one who inevitably looks most awkward and uncomfortable in the favorite family photo.

We would all like to always put our best foot forward.  But sometimes, despite our best intentions, we fail to present ourselves in the best possible light.  When the biggest consequence is having to endure a few years of looking goofy in the family photo, we can simply learn not to take ourselves too seriously.

But when our inability to always present ourselves well inadvertently harms others, hurts feelings, or creates confusion and frustration, we need to be willing to ask for forgiveness; forgiveness from those we’ve injured and, especially in the church, forgiveness from the God whose mission we may have gotten in the way of.

This Sunday we’ll talk about forgiveness in worship.  We’ll focus on how we can be changed by the understanding that God accepts us even when our best efforts turn out a little goofy. Forgiveness allows us to understand with confidence that our futures will be better than our pasts and gives us room to fail boldly as we live into the promised future of a risen Savior.

See you Sunday.

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