The Stories Our Pictures Tell

by Melanie Coleman

This summer, my parents arranged for a beach photo shoot with the whole family. In between shots, some of us waited on the sand, until my nine-year-old nephew James came to inform us we were needed again. As I stood up, the rough edge of my beach-worn toenail somehow deeply sliced the top of James’ ankle with its jagged edge. He burst into tears and hysteria ensued. This one was a real bleeder; add salty sand to the trauma, and I knew I would be paying for James’ therapy in the years to come.

After that, things kind of went to worms. So much for our dreams of catching candid laughter and bonding on camera. Parents stressed, kids ran into the ocean fully dressed, and this auntie contemplated her new life as a very specific kind of assassin. We tried to salvage the session, bravely smiling and offering bribes to the kids in exchange for cooperation.

Let’s just say it wasn’t a banner event for the Coleman family.

No matter what we’d hoped for from our session that evening, the resulting library of pictures told an unfiltered story. Those of us who were there can plainly see the pictorial shift: when James was injured and when the kids hit their limit. However, when we each shared a selection of photos on social media, it was interesting to see how every story told varied according to our different perspectives.

Just like selecting which photos to share, we have choices in what stories about our lives we tell and in how we share them. What part of the narrative we focus on inevitably reflects our personal values and mission.

Paul lived a life full of experiences, one that told two different stories: his before and after. As a Pharisee, he earnestly pursued and persecuted Christians, fully convinced of his righteous passion. After a dramatic conversion, Paul’s mission shifted entirely: the Gospel he had once vehemently rejected was now his focus and calling.

So when Paul shared his story with others, how did it reveal his focus? Well, in his letter to the church in Philippi, we see that Paul eschewed his former accolades, pedigree, and title. Instead, his focus was solely on Christ. He wrote: “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ…” (Philippians 3:7-8 NASB).

Paul took the pictures from his life and used them to show the story of how gloriously everything changed once he encountered Christ. He encouraged the church in Philippi to know God and pursue Him first. He went on to say: “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14 NASB)

Just like Paul framed his story around the transforming work of Christ in his life, we too have a beautiful opportunity to see life and share it through the eyes of God’s redemptive grace. Through our experiences, He is constantly at work in us, teaching us and changing our hearts. When we share our story with others, we can use our pictures to reflect God’s grace and glory instead of our own plaudits.

And that is an album worth saving. 

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21 NASB

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The Stories Our Pictures Tell – encouragement from Melanie Coleman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Melanie Coleman is a worship and youth leader at New Hope Chapel located in Arnold, MD. Her passions include bridging the gap between mental health issues and the church’s response, and helping young adults embrace their relationship with Jesus as their own as they experience His unconditional love and grace. She works as the administrator for AWSA and loves serving her AWSA sisters. On any given day, you can find her sneaking off to visit her various nieces and nephews, usually with Chick-Fil-A in hand. You can find her on Facebook and on Instagram as @elizmelanie.

Join the conversation: How does your story reflect God’s grace?

Deepening Our Knowledge of Christ through Surrender

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV

Our relationship with Christ begins and is sustained through surrender.

For years, I held a distorted view of God. I knew intellectually that He was loving and kind. But my actions and fears, demonstrated my true beliefs—beliefs that hid so deeply in my heart, my conscious mind wasn’t aware they were there. Through a series of events, God allowed my world to completely unravel. At least, that was how it felt.

In reality, He was unraveling lies and fears never meant to be part of my world, so that I could truly come alive in Him.

It all began when my husband quit his job—twice, in under a year—and moved our family across the country. Through a three-year upheaval period that followed, I realized, while I claimed God was my provider, sustainer, protector, and guide, my continual fight for control proved I believed otherwise. In many ways, I knew of God, but didn’t truly know Him, not at the deep, peace-sustaining level.

Otherwise, I would’ve had no cause for alarm or striving and no reason to self-protect. As I surrendered, through gritted teeth at first, I came to understand just how true all those truths Scripture reveals truly were. That terrifying, mind-shifting experience resulted in an intimacy with Christ I hadn’t even previously thought to pursue, and a much deeper understanding of who He is.

I’m learning to say, “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord …” (Phil. 3:7-8, NIV).

Those words in Philippians were written by an ancient church planter named Paul who truly had forsaken all things in order to know Christ. Prior to his conversion, he’d known of God but he didn’t come to truly know Him, personally and intimately, until He surrendered. And through his continual surrender, his intimacy with Christ grew to a level I suspect few of us will experience, because few of us will ever truly understand what it means to say, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

As I said, our relationship begins, and is deepened and fueled, through surrender. Less of us, more of Him. As we rely on Him—His power, protection, strength, and provision—our understanding moves from mere intellectual assent to a deep and abiding knowledge that forms a strong, unshakable foundation.

“This is eternal life,” Christ said, while praying to the Father, “that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3, NIV). The word our Bibles translate as know, ginóskó in the original Greek, points to a deep intimacy acquired through experience. But even this word lacks some of the depth revealed through its Hebrew counterpart, yada. This is the same word used to describe the union Adam and Eve experienced through intimacy with each other. Genesis 4:1 says, “Now the man knew his wife Eve …” (NRSV).

Our culture has turned sex into something selfish and ugly, but God designed this most intimate of acts to, in some mysterious way, unite two individuals into one. It’s a complete unveiling of oneself, to live “naked but not afraid.” To know one another fully, without shame or fear.

This is the level of intimacy Christ longs for with us, to usher us into a relationship so fulfilling, we, like Paul, would consider all else rubbish for the sake of knowing, truly knowing, Him.

We reach that place of ever-increasing intimacy through surrender.

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Deepening Our Knowledge of Christ through Surrender – @JenSlattery on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Jennifer SlatteryAbout the author: Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Restoring Her Faith and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team love to help women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. Visit her online to find out more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event, and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter HERE to learn of her future appearances, projects, and releases.

Join the conversation: How has surrender transformed your life? What did that involve? We want to hear your story!