The Greatest Photograph I Never Shot
Standing in church on Sunday, I looked over at this family during worship. One of their three children has already passed on, and another is severely handicapped. With one hand the mother was holding her son's hand in his wheelchair, so lovingly, and in her other arm, she was carrying their youngest. The father was standing next to them both, hands clasped in praise, and together this family composed one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen.
They were in full-on worship. Not just singing, not just praising, but so completely engulfed in the wonder and magnificence of God that it seemed in the next second they might collectively, as a family, begin to defy gravity. The mother was not defeated, she was about to charge. Her stance was that of someone about to break through chains. She was bound on this earth and yet free, freer than me. The father too was not rigid or stiff. He was not slouched and sullen, there but not really, present but not accounted for. No. He was tender and malleable, moving in sync with the movement of the music, giving thanks, teaching his family at that moment not by words but by actions.
As a photographer, it was all I could do to not pull out my phone and at least take a snapshot, to send to them this treasure of a moment, a keepsake. But then, how awkward might that be for them? So, I left it there, right where it should be, for the glory of God and for His eyes, because that's who it was truly intended for. I was thankful to be standing near enough to witness it. After worship, that Dad stood up and gave the message, proclaiming Jesus Christ and sharing Him with anyone who would listen.
I am reminded of John 9, as Jesus passed by a blind man, and they asked Him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him."
To make the story so much more amazing, He knelt and spat in the dust and made mud. He rubbed it on the man's eyes and then told him to go wash, and the man could see! I've always loved this passage because I half understand it. I too was born blind, but just in one eye.
See, you can look at this story in two very different ways, with two very different outcomes, in much the same way you can look at this family, worshiping and giving thanks to God. You can see trust and obedience. You can see the beauty, sovereignty, majesty, and power of God. Circumstances so unplanned, unauthored, and unexplained by man, yet so fully purposed and prepared and knit together by the Creator of all things. Would we ever write a story in this way? You could be in awe and in praise of such an intricate plan of salvation. Or you can see the heartbreak, you can see a victim, a casualty, and the rudeness of some stranger spitting in dirt and making mud, then smearing it on your face. You can be astounded and offended that this man might have lived 30 years, blind so that Jesus could walk by him and give him sight. You could say it's atrocious and disgusting, self-centered. You can see the gift or you can see this finite moment in time, with your focus only on the problem and not the remedy.
That's what most of the people in the story did. They hauled the man and his parents in for questioning, they demanded answers. They insulted and offended, and they completed missed the beauty and the point of the entire story in the making since the dawn of time.
But the once blind man didn't see it that way. He didn't care what anyone else thought, and when Jesus found him later the man believed! He was no victim. He was a miracle. He could see!
Yet the people who could see, who had everything just the way they liked it, who had power and authority and status and security... they were the ones who were truly blind.
That was the story of this family. They could be bitter. They could be angry. They could be pounding their fists at God, blaming him for making them victims in this world. They could have given up on Jesus a long time ago and left the exhausting idea of church and hauling their son in his wheelchair. They could have done without the thousands of looks and whispers, and yet they didn't. They praise. They worship. They open their home to weekly gatherings. They minister and teach and share and love, and it's all 'that the works of God might be displayed.'
And that's why you won't find on this page the greatest photograph that this photographer never shot. You'll just have to imagine it, and then give all the glory to God where it belongs. Someday God will show it to them. It will be upon His wall, displayed in a prominent place, and I imagine He will point to it with the pride of a Father showing off his kids, saying, "These are Mine. My treasured possessions."