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
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?