My family and I recently had the chance to participate in an event called Help Portrait in Nashville, TN. Help Portrait was founded by celebrity photographer Jeremy Cowart in 2008 and is "a global movement of photographers, hairstylists and makeup artists using their time, tools and expertise to give back to those in need." I know you might be saying to yourself right now, "Jeff and his family do none of those things!" But we found our role for the day. We were some of the volunteers who helped with the framing of the guests' portraits after they had them taken. It proved to be an amazing opportunity to serve the people who are often overlooked or ignored by our society. This included many who were homeless, several residents of group or recovery homes, and numerous other poor, needy families. I overheard a lot of the guests saying they'd never had a chance to do anything like it before!
After getting their portraits done, we offered guests the chance to keep them for their own use or we could mail them off to friends, family, or other loved ones for them. One woman I got the chance to talk with decided to mail away both of hers. I asked her who she was going to send them to. I was moved and blown away by her response. She said, "I’m mailing these pictures to my mom and grandma. The last few years the only pics they’ve seen of me have been mugshots!"
On that day, I was also able to speak with a man named Sheldon. He approached me after his picture was taken smiling from ear to ear. When I started to talk with him, it was clear to me that he was a man full of joy. The kind of joy that's contagious. But I learned it hadn't always been this way for Sheldon.
Sheldon was once part of a gang and had been shot and nearly died a few years ago. As a result of severe blood loss from the shooting, his blood pressure had dropped dangerously low and he had suffered a stroke that affected the right side of his face, causing it to permanently droop. For this reason, he rarely had his picture taken. He was worried others would make fun of the way his face looked.
But things were different now for Sheldon. Something in his life had changed and he was now actually excited to have his picture taken. Sheldon told me how he was in a recovery home and had been drug free for four months, the longest he had been clean in many years. He also excitedly explained to me how he recently found Jesus, which he undoubtedly credited for turning his life around.
But I could tell he was still upset about something and I soon figured out what it was. Sheldon wasn't sure how he would be able to use the portrait he had just taken, the one he was so proud of, as his Facebook profile pic. I told him I could help him out if he wanted. I said I could use my iPhone to take a picture of his picture, log into his Facebook account, and change his profile pic over to the new one. He took me up on my offer and was so excited when we got his pic changed!
Afterwards, I started thinking about what had just taken place and realized something beautiful had happened. You see, like I said, Sheldon had always been ashamed of the way he looked in his pictures. But he no longer worried about what others would think when they saw him or his picture, even with all his imperfections. He had found Jesus and there was no more shame. That's because Sheldon now understands that when God looks at him, he doesn't really see Sheldon.
The same is true for every one of us. We all have our flaws. We all have scars. But when God looks at us, even if he were to closely examine every subtle and minute detail of our professionally done pictures, he sees none of that.
When God looks at us, he sees perfection.
He sees Jesus.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come.”
2 Cor. 5:17