Our church is in the middle of doing a "church directory." And we all know what that means. Family portraits. Now, let me be completely honest. I hate getting pictures taken. I hate the posing, the "turn your head a little to the right, now lean forward, now move your shoulders this way, now stand on your head and count to twelve." Yuck. Plus, for some reason, the pictures always end up looking just like me. Who wants that?!
Afterward, of course, I'm always a bit more positive. After all that yuck, we end up with a nice portrait of the family that we will proudly hang on the wall for the next few decades, and I'll walk by and give a big sigh and think "oh, I remember those days, I wish we could go back..."
Family portraits are a good thing. I've come to realize that even more as I discover that this might be our last chance to have the whole family together like this. At least for awhile. The oldest is leaving for Germany for a year (if not more), the next two have both graduated high school and who knows where they'll be in a year. So it's nice to have them all together, and to capture this moment. (For the record, we're still waiting for the newest photo, so the one here is our previous family photo; as if anyone cares...)
But there are drawbacks, as well. While I would love to freeze time and keep things just like this, while I still walk by and look at those older portraits and think "Oh, how wonderful those times were," the truth is, it would be unnatural for things to stay like that.
Life is meant to progress. We are meant to grow and mature. As much as I don't like it, our children are meant to grow up and move on and begin lives of their own. It's the way God intended it.
The same is true of our spiritual lives, of course. We are meant to progress, to grow and mature. If we stayed the same, if we could take a spiritual picture today and saw no change a year from now, that would be unhealthy.
And the same is true for a church. The temptation is to look back at the life of the church and see it like the church directory. That moment frozen in time. When everything was like this, and the people were like that, and "oh, wasn't it wonderful." But we are to be growing and maturing and progressing. People come and go, families change and grow, ministries ebb and flow. And that's a good thing. Things may be different now than ten years ago, and will be different ten years from now, but that's as it should be. Hopefully those changes are the result of growth and maturity and becoming more Christ-like and Christ-centered in all we do.
So I'm thankful for the family portraits to hang on to. I'm even thankful for the church directory that will capture this moment in time. But hopefully it's not a case of trying to permanently frame where we are, and we stop moving toward where God wants us to be. It will be great to look back in years to come and say, "Oh, I remember those times." But while we may do that with fond memories, may it never detract from the joy of where God has brought us, and the delight of where we are now in our service to the Kingdom.