It’s a periodic event for churches across the land ~ the scheduling of a photo session for pictorial directories. A few years back the church I attend scheduled a photographer for just such an undertaking and my husband and I participated.
Photos are usually dreaded by most people because, if we’re honest, they wound our vanity a little. Think you don’t struggle with that? Ask yourself whose face you look for first in a group photo and what your reaction is. We just seem to have that bent. We hope the image will physically capture our best and usually find that it simply reflects us as we are.
That fact didn’t escaped the photographer who viewed us from the other side of the lens and, at the conclusion of our sitting, we were offered the option of computer enhancement ~ a sort of technological makeover. Flaws in our complexions could be erased. Our eyes could be made brighter and our smiles whiter. With the click of a button, we could have perfected images. My mind wandered as the photographer spoke and I began to entertain why this had such appeal to our human nature.
We want to cover over and hide our flaws. We spend a fair amount of time perfecting our image for the approval of those around us, while giving little thought to how God sees us. 1 Samuel 16:7 tells us “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” That’s a good reminder, because the heart is the true reflection of who we really are. And who we are in the sight of God is what really matters.
Other than the 53rd Chapter of Isaiah, the Bible doesn’t give us an account of Jesus appearance and Isaiah’s portrayal is contrary to what we envision. “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire Him.” (NIV) Artists renditions of Jesus through the centuries have been an attempt to capture the character and nature of Christ as best they could. The natural response was to take the beauty of His nature and translate it to His appearance, but Isaiah 53 makes it clear the Savior’s looks were … well, ordinary.
It’s something to think about, because we are taken in by appearances. We’re drawn to beauty in nature and people and impressed with structure and accomplishments. So why would the One who created all the beauty of heaven and earth, filling it with such majesty, choose to present himself as common, even unattractive? Perhaps, He wanted us to move beyond the trap of valuing with our eyes only and elevate human vision to matters of eternal worth. Love reached out with authentic life to a humanity chasing after superficial perfection.
The photographer’s question brought me back to the matter at hand. “So, what did you decide?” I remember my husband and I looked at each other and smiled. “We’re just going to keep the pictures that show us as we are. Who would know us otherwise?” Still, I couldn’t help but think that a remarkable transformation had already occurred. Though undetected by the camera lens, the deep redeeming work of Jesus had cleaned us from the blemish of sin, perfecting us in the sight of God … and nothing could be more beautiful.