I read an article the other day about a photographer who has recently had his life turned upside down in the best way. This photographer had a collection of photos – incredible photos – discovered, and has since been given the opportunity to use his skills and exercise his craft in major professional venues.
At first glance, that story doesn’t sound so unusual. That’s just how people get started in careers like that. It’s not uncommon to hear about someone in our world who dreams…works toward that dream…and then lives the dream out in everyday ways. While that is the story of this up-and-coming young photographer, there is more to his story. There is one detail that makes his story stand out in this culture of incredible talent and among the thousands of success stories that can be told.
You see, this photographer? Until recently, he only took pictures of himself. His portfolio was full of pictures….of himself. And while that seems conceited, his reason for doing so is anything but self-centered.
The truth is that he is so shy – has always been so uncomfortable talking to people – that he was afraid to even ask anyone else if he could photograph them. Wanting to hone his skills and get his incredible ideas out, he did the only thing he could do: he took pictures of himself.
When I read his story, all I could do was smile as I thought, “And isn’t that just how God works?”
This guy…this shy photographer…he had a weakness that I’m sure he despised. I can’t know for sure, but I would bet that he tried to get past his shyness I pursuit of his dream, but couldn’t make it happen. I think he probably had people tell him as a child that he needed to open up. Speak up. Be more outgoing. Stop shutting himself off. And I think he probably wanted more than anything to stop being the way that he was. Shyness is hard. It’s misunderstood and isolating and unpopular.
But for that one young man, shyness became something more.
It was his biggest weakness……but in the end, it was his greatest strength. It was the thing that ultimately led him into his dreams. It was the thing that made God’s plans for his life come to be.
And something in that just makes my heart nearly explode because I get that. I understand that feeling of wanting something to be taken away so, so badly……but for it to remain. I understand the feeling of wanting to move past a part of my story, but finding instead that it is an inextricable part of my journey and part, in fact, of what God wants for me. I get that.
The photographer in the news this week struggled with shyness.
For me, the struggle was likewise against my flesh as I battled depression and anxiety and panic and the inconsolable loneliness of that war.
Oh, how I cried out for that to be taken from me. I cried an ocean of desperate tears, pleading with the One who made me to remove this part of who I am. “You made me,” I reasoned in my prayers, “so you can redesign my life around this. Without this. Please…..please take this from me. I don’t want to do this anymore. Please….make it stop.”
“I was given a thorn in my flesh… Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-8)
But instead, those tears were bottled and kept for a greater purpose. They were saved to be a healing perfume for others. They were reserved to be poured out as a testimony of an even greater power within me.
“Each time He said, ‘My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.'” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Because in His infinite wisdom, God knew that it is more important that one person – one person with a voice – be given a story of hope to tell. Because there are others engaged in battles. There are others engaged in a fight for their very lives – drowning in their own secret oceans of tears – and they need a lifeline of hope thrown from one who has already reached the shore.
“So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
And now, though at times my foot slips and I again find myself up to my waist in the salty ocean of my struggle, I will speak about it. I will talk about what God has done in and through and for me. Because this journey isn’t about me. It’s about something bigger happening in and through and in spite of me.
“Since I know it is all for Christ’s good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)
So friends……I don’t presume to know what your personal battle is. I don’t know where it is that your tears flow from, or for how long you have cried your throat raw from pleading for rescue. I don’t know your struggle, but I do know this: God has his hand in it, and your struggle is not the end of your story. He’s not finished with you yet.
Hold on. There is always hope.