I have a confession to make….
I cannot stop thinking about this picture.
It has literally been driving me crazy how often I have thought about it; and I don’t mean in a cute, memorable sort of way.
No, this picture has left an eerie and troubled impression on my mind.
Since receiving this picture, I have taken some time to really dwell on the point of capturing memories via photography. Websites and apps such as Facebook and Instagram provide us with outlets to “share” such personal and memorable experiences with others, and have even broadened our vocabularies with new words such as “selfie”, “usie”, “groupie”, and the like. Photographic memories used to be stored in our memory banks and photo albums; now they are strewn throughout the world wide web, and most are viewable to anyone doing a quick Google search. Thanks to these aforementioned social outlets, even celebrities and other prominent political and social figures have had an exponential increase into their personal and professional lives via a photograph shared on the web of their award ceremonies, backyard barbecues, and public speeches/events. In all these pictures, like the one I have posted at the top of this blog, we see people at their best – from genuine excitement and love, to the extreme of a Photoshopped barbie doll with the “perfect” image and (wait for it….), “perfect” life.
There, I said it.
Maybe this burden of consuming thought surrounding this picture will now finally be released. Because within minutes of its receipt, it hit me – like a ton of bricks – and I’ve been trying to recover ever since.
We as 21st century social beings have been living a lie.
But what’s more important than that fact, is that I have been living a lie.
I think it is time I backtrack a little, and give you some background information regarding this picture to help prove my point.
The date was November 7th, 2014. My mom, guide dog puppy in training Pastel (the Golden Retriever on the left of the picture at the top of this blog), and myself had just walked back to our family van after an incredible day spent on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco and eating the best clam chowder I have ever had at Boudin’s Bakery right on the pier. The traffic through downtown San Francisco was a nightmare, but it was also exciting getting to see the hustle and bustle of the downtown shops, pedestrians, and even construction of new skyscrapers. Our beloved van, which was about 10 years old, had faithfully driven us up to San Francisco from SoCal, but was now making a sound I can only describe as one made on a diesel truck engine when accelerating. It came and went while we slowly moved through traffic, and we really didn’t think anything of it. We finally got out of downtown and over the bridge to the east side of the Bay and the Oakland area. We were in the fast lane of the transition of the bridge to the freeway connecting us to the Oakland area still in heavy traffic when our van just stopped (of course, I was driving). It literally stopped – when I pushed on the accelerator nothing happened, and then smoke started coming from under the hood. Now the heavy traffic had turned into a complete disaster, and between trying to get AAA to send a tow truck, CHP’s busy signal (because of course everyone else in San Francisco was having car trouble on the freeway that night too), and honking cars upset at our abrupt halt; our wonderful day turned into a nightmare as we prayed that no one would accidentally slam into our stalled car on the overpass while waiting over an hour before helped arrived. We finally got towed, and made it back to our hotel via the general manager at the local Toyota dealership where our van was to spend the night before finding out what happened to it. That night it was hard to sleep because my adrenaline was still rushing, and I was really upset about what would happen the next day. The whole reason my mom, pup, and I took the trip was to be a part of one of my previous puppy’s graduation from Dogs 4 Diabetics (D4D) as an Ambassador. Now without a car, we had no way to get to the ceremony which was about 15-20 minutes away from our hotel. I didn’t understand how any of this could be a part of God’s “good” and sovereign plan for me to bring me so close to that special moment, and yet not allow it to happen after all. The next day, I made some calls, couldn’t get a ride, left two messages with taxi companies, finally got a call back from one of them, and set up a pick up time so we could still go to the graduation ceremony. We gave the driver 15 minutes after the arranged time to pick us up, and then I had to call the company back and explain we were still waiting, which they brushed off with an excuse and promised someone would be there in 15 minutes. More waiting, and then he finally showed up. The whole trip to the ceremony, he spent complaining about why he was late, and how being a cab driver would be the death of him, and then he forgot to turn the meter on to calculate our rate, and by the time we got to the ceremony I just handed him $10 dollars, got out of the cab, and vowed never to take a cab again. Once at the ceremony we found out that my puppy and her new owners were running late, so I had to wait some more for them to show up. Meanwhile, my mom and dad were communicating with each other and with the dealership on the diagnosis of our van. It was not worth the money to try and fix. Our van had died, never to run for our family again. Now, my mom, puppy, and I were stuck in San Francisco without a vehicle. Then the graduation started. It was time to push away all of those emotions and concerns, and focus on my dog and the graduation.
[Insert picture at top of blog of happy and proud raiser and her puppies capturing a joyous moment of perfect contentment and bliss.]
Do you understand now what I was trying to convey earlier? Long story short, my dad came and rescued us from San Francisco that night, and with the help of the general manager, and by God’s grace, we were allowed to head back home on Sunday afternoon, a bit more crammed in my dad’s sedan, but all of us healthy, safe, and together again.
When I thought about what I wanted to write for my first post on this blog, I felt God nudging me to share this story, and the lie we often fall into about our “picturesque” lives. My life is not always full of rainbows and butterflies. Sometimes it is full of anxiety, fear, and disappointment. What’s more important is that this is not just the case for you and me, but for everyone in the world. Celebrities and political and social figures included. They are not immune to anxiety, depression, mental illnesses, cancer, genetic defects, loneliness, etc., anymore than we are.
I have been learning this lesson in the two months since my experience, and it has really helped changed my outlook on life. If we really want the pain and loneliness to go away, we have to stop telling each other we’re doing “good” and be vulnerable enough to tell each other what is on our hearts – both good and bad. We should be just as willing and ready to share our struggles as we are with our joyous moments.
Because in the end none of us live a “perfect” life. That is impossible. But we do have a perfect Savior who bore all of our suffering on the cross, and showers us each moment with His grace – a grace that sometimes removes the difficulties we experience, and a grace that at times does not remove the difficulties in order to teach us a valuable lesson.
I would not be who I am today had the Lord removed this trial from my life and not caused me to see things in a different perspective. For that alone, I will be eternally grateful.