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The Real Picture

Many of us pose and present phony half-versions of ourselves. But what makes a good picture — and heart?

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I don’t love pictures.

Well, to clarify: I don’t love pictures of me.

I didn’t love my third grade school picture, with my Annie perm and pre-orthodontia smile. And I didn’t love my fourth grade picture, when I’d traded in my curls for a lovely blonde mullet.

These days, I don’t love pictures that show my flabby arms, white legs, or entire middle section. Which basically leaves just my face … but even then, I prefer pictures taken from overhead, to hide my double chin.

I have a hunch I’m not the only girl who stands behind her kids to avoid the camera, or cleans the kitchen before Instagramming lunch.

Many of us pose and present phony half-versions of ourselves. Author John Ortberg calls it “image management.” Vanity and insecurity and pride at their finest.

Not a pretty picture.

But what makes a good picture — and heart? If a picture is worth a thousand words, how can we make even a snapshot of our lives tell an authentic story? I can think of three tips that are true in both photography and life: hold still, know what’s in the frame, and use good lighting.

Hold Still

One afternoon at a botanical garden, my mother-in-law took a picture of a hummingbird. As she aimed her camera at the tiny creature, a grouchy man with a big camera butted in.

“You’ll never get a good shot with that,” he scoffed. “You need a faster shutter speed, like this.”

He held up his fancy camera with pride. Becky smiled and took her picture anyway. To our delight (and vindication), “that camera” captured a perfect image of the bird, with its fast wings in motion.

Her shutter speed was right, but so was his advice: the faster an object moves, the faster the shutter speed should be. Take it from the girl who shoots blurry pictures from moving vehicles: some pictures are best when we just hold still.

It’s the same in life. In the face of fear, faith holds still.

“The Lord will fight for you,” Moses told a terrified Israel, as they faced a sea in front and an army behind. “You need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14).

“Be still and know that I am God,” the psalmist wrote, no matter if waters roar and mountains quake (Psalm 46).

“Quiet! Be still!” said Christ, and he stopped the storm for his frightened friends (Mark 4:39).

When anxiety leads me into hiding — when fear tempts me to be someone I’m not — I need to trust God and be still.

Know What’s in the Frame

A few years ago, my neighbor’s bulldog had puppies. When the litter was still brand new, I took several pictures of them. I sent one of the shots to a friend who loves bulldogs, but only after I posted it online did I notice … that cute baby bulldog had not-so-cute puppy poop on his backside.

Lovely, Amy, I thought. Next time, look at the whole picture first. Good photographers pay careful attention to what’s in the frame.

In life, too, I should take note of everything in my heart and mind.

What am I capturing here? Anger? Jealousy? Where’s my focus? Is my life one big “selfie,” all about me, or am I focused on something higher?

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit,” wrote Paul, “but in humility consider others better than yourselves…. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3, 5).

Often, the “frame” of my life reveals an ugly picture. Enough, Amy, I think. Focus on the Lord, and take a better picture.

Use Good Lighting

When a magazine accepted an article I’d written, I was thrilled. The editor’s words excited me, until this line: “… and please send a headshot along with your bio.”

Headshot? My skin was broken out, my hair was a wreck, and I didn’t have anything to wear.

Not that clothes show up in a headshot, but still.

I doctored my picture with sepia, and presto! Flawless skin and smooth hair. I was pleased … even though it hardly looked like me anymore.

I hid behind dark colors, but an authentic person loves the light.

“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory” (Hebrews 1:3). And, “you are the light of the world…. Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14, 16).

An authentic life radiates with God’s glory.

I’ll shine, then, in the light of truth. I’ll keep the ugly things out of the picture and focus on the Lord, and I’ll hold still as I trust in Him. I’ll show the whole picture — the real picture — with my life.

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Amy Storms is a wife, mom, and writer in Joplin, Missouri. An Oklahoma girl at heart, she lives with her pastor-husband Andy, their kids Nathan, Anne, and Molly, and about a hundred other "sons" in a dorm at her beloved alma mater, Ozark Christian College. Along with guacamole and Dr. Pepper, words are some of her very favorite things. She loves to read words, craft them on the page, and, of course, say them. Too many of them.

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The Real Picture

by Amy Storms time to read: 4 min