Wichita, KS / November 12-14, ‘10
This picture of a pier shows imperfection, not to mention that it is a long way from Kansas. The images are shaky and the backdrop is blurred. This seascape may not seem to offer much in the way of a photograph. And though it may be out of focus, its quality is not jeopardized. While others would disagree and try to take another picture in its place, I find beauty in the distortion. I can’t change any of my physical limitations, but I can make the most of every one of them. Even from the smallest of things, such as my hands that tremor while taking photographs, this picture is an expression of me.
I traveled to Wichita and had the privilege to speak about the uniqueness that resounds in each of us. I challenged high school students on a theme entitled, “Uncommon,” which encouraged them to live out their lives as expressions of God’s love to the world around them. As I stood in the auditorium, I couldn’t help but notice the bright green and white plastic cups stuffed in the holes of a chain-link fence hanging over the stage. They spelled out the word, Uncommon, and not only did it give the students a visual for the weekend, but it also provided them with an opportunity for introspection.
When I was asked to speak at this conference for the southern district of Mennonite Churches, I jumped at the invitation. I have not only wrestled with feeling uncommon throughout my lifetime, but now I was sharing about these personal experiences with the hope that God would have His way and show Himself to each one of us. If these students ever questioned their place in the world, I could relate. I saw myself peering through the holes of a chain-link fence because I was fascinated by what I saw on the other side. I shared that as a teenager I struggled trying to make sense of a world when my entire life changed the day I woke up with a disease. I wanted to be on the other side of the fence because there I would fit in and the loneliness in being different would not be the chains linking me to isolation.
God grabbed my attention when I stumbled upon 1 Corinthians 1:27-29. “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” These verses shifted my perspective: they eventually began leading me to a life of peace; and they became my mission as a speaker. Those things I once considered foolish; weak; lowly; and despised were seen by God as beautiful expressions. I was shown that my life wasn’t about me, but rather allowing God to use me to celebrate His glory. If I lived out life knowing this, there was an undeniable rest and freedom to be me.
I hope God mobilizes each one of us towards experiencing a life of peace. My picture of this pier is a compilation of shaky images that captures beauty for me, an expression. We may not feel as though we have anything to give in comparison to others, but we will never know the impact one can have until we discover the art that is found in living. Whatever picture we instill to others, however small, just might paint a thousand words to describe Jesus Christ for somebody else! I choose to pick up the brush.