Every year, I take hundreds of photos when I am on vacation.
And, every year, after we return from the trip, I sit by the dim glow of my computer and delete the assorted incredibly awful photos mingled in with the great ones. For every glimmering view of the Charles Bridge, there’s an inexplicable close-up of my nostril, or my husband caught mid-eye-roll, or one of us gawping open-mouthed at the camera. I delete them and I save the “good” ones for friends and family: the smiles, the hugs, the us-standing-by-an-important-monument ones.
It’s self-editing. We all do it. And whether we realize it or not, we do it in our day-to-day life as much as we do it on Facebook. As humans, we’re constantly censoring our lives and presenting some careful “best” version of ourselves to others. We cut out the parts of ourselves we deem unsavory or unnecessary, and we showcase the best ones for everyone to see.
We say we’re fine when our coworker asks how we’re doing. I’m so far from fine, but I don’t have the time or energy to explain right now, and anyway, we barely know each other.
We don’t speak up about certain fears and prayer requests to fellow believers. It’s stupid. It’s such a small thing. And anyway, there’s an avalanche of requests about really overwhelming trials tonight and mine isn’t important.
We don’t mention our past struggles, or our current temptations. I’m not that person any more. And anyway, people will gossip. It might make me look bad. Besides, that matter is private, and really no one’s business.
Even with our nearest and dearest and closest relationships, we don’t show everything. We can’t. We keep bathroom doors closed. We have a list of topics we avoid. We censor ourselves when we think we’re too boring, too unimportant, or too wretched. We keep quiet to avoid conflict. And such editing, I suspect, comes from fear: fear of driving people away, fear of being disliked, fear of causing hurt, fear of being left behind, fear of causing trouble for others, fears spawned by our own insecurities.
But God always and eternally sees our whole and unadulterated self.
When I was a teenager, the thought was terrifying. I cringed at the thought of God glowering at me through every misdeed or wayward thought. The thought of vulnerability before God, of being “fully known,” didn’t seem pleasurable or hopeful at all. Focusing on the fact that my righteousness is as filthy rags, I imagined God might look at me as one giant pile of misdeeds and sin and carelessness that He just so happened to forgive and tolerate because He’s God.
But I was wrong. Yes, God does see everything. And yes, my inadequacies are on full display. I can’t edit the bad parts away like I do with photos, and neither can you. Yes, God is a holy God and I am a sinner, and He sees me knowing that. He and I both know that I could be so much more than what I am. But God is also a joyful, passionate, ebullient, delighted, hopeful God. He is the pursuing lover in the Song of Solomon and the rejected, lovesick, desperate lover of Jeremiah and Isaiah. He exults in us and delights in us and sings over us (Zeph. 3:17). He cries out for us. He wonders about us. He wants to learn everything about us and be a part of everything with us.
It’s you, it’s me, it’s us He longs for. A God who lacks nothing and is complete in Himself wants us. Yes, even knowing everything He knows. For some people the thought of standing alone before God one day is intimidating – it’s intimidating at times to me – and yet that intimidation fades when I remember this truth: He is eager to meet me there. He is eager to meet me now. He loves me. He is excited about me. And knowing that doesn’t make me feel arrogant or special, but it does make me feel confident in what I think is a righteous way. Secure. Cherished.
Right now I know only in part, but I will know fully, even as I am fully known (1 Cor. 13:12). In some sense we are always alone and known before God, the photo album of our lives and our selves laid out plainly before Him, but one day this equation of intimacy will be complete. We will also fully know Him – and, I suspect, be staggered by a love and eagerness we lack the capacity to understand.
So go look in the mirror. You are precious. As you are right now, everything that you have been and everything you will be, you are loved.