By Lindsay Hufford
This summer our family took on a new title: baseball family. My oldest son is playing in a Coach Pitch league, and baseball has become a big part of our week. Each Tuesday I load up all the kids with their equipment, fidget spinners, and Pokémon cards, and head to practice. My younger kids and I play in a grassy field for an hour and a half while we watch their brother build his skills on the field with his teammates. On Friday nights, we haul chairs and blankets behind the dugout, cheer for the team, and celebrate—win or lose.
Team pictures are an inevitable part of most sports seasons. We recently gathered with all the other youth baseball teams in our area to snap group photos of excited kids. I sat waiting in the grass as the children posed with bats and gloves. A young teen girl I had seen at a few practices and games drew my attention. She’s the older sister of one of my son’s teammates, and she’s probably about thirteen years old. While her brother smiled for the group photo, she flipped her hair from one side to the other, smiling and adjusting the angle of her chin as she clicked the camera button on her smartphone.
I had mixed emotions as I watched her actions: gratitude for growing up in an era without social media to document my awkward middle school years; empathy as I, too, have tried to achieve that perfect selfie; and sadness over the self-consciousness replacing innocent confidence at an early age. Most of all, I thought about how much is left out when we try to craft that perfect square.
Image consumes us in a time when the majority of us walk around with a camera in our pockets. Presenting perfect pictures of our lives has become the cultural norm, but we focus too often on the wrong image.
The Bible tells us we are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27). When I think about the character of a holy God, I’m awed that he chose to put even a speck of his essence into humankind. The attributes of God emanating through us will always outshine any of our physical qualities.
John reminds us this world and its desires will pass away, but those who do the will of God live forever (1 John 2:17). Our youth and beauty fade. Our health deteriorates. Our physical bodies lose the battle with gravity. The only image we need to be mindful of is the image of God within us. When we work on honing our sacred image, we’re a part of something eternal.
The qualities I saw in this girl that afternoon wouldn’t be visible to those who viewed the cropped photos of her lovely face. I noticed her in a sea of other children primarily because of one physical difference. She had a broken leg, wrapped in a bright-blue cast, and used a scooter to get around.
I know God was seeing beyond those squares to a devoted sister who came to her brother’s games each week despite her injury. She pushed herself over grassy fields that could hardly be described as handicapped accessible, persevering in the face of difficulty. She cheered for her sibling at each game, building him up. Her dedication and strength exemplify a much greater and lasting image than that of her earthly body.
While we focus on what to crop out of photos to give the illusion of perfection, God sees the big picture. He looks at the messy counters we ensure don’t make the picture and sees an environment of care and love. He sees our brokenness and comforts us while calling us into wholeness. He sees our hurting hearts and marvels at the risks we took to love. God sees our failures and gives us the grace and strength to keep trying.
Let’s remember, as we take and share our earthly images, that the image of the eternal God resides in us. Let’s take a page from God’s playbook and focus on the big picture of a life well lived for his glory.
Lindsay is a happy wife and homeschooling mom to three kids. Whether she is reading, running, gardening, teaching, cooking, dancing, writing, or chasing hens, she counts it all as joy. Lindsay writes about this beautiful life at searchforthesimple.com.
Photograph © Luke Porter, used with permission