Our family is no stranger to the fall family photo phenomenon. This year even the kids were excited. They knew that the new pictures we planned to take would replace their old ones on the wall, and they were even excited about the outfits we chose for them to wear. I was excited too; this year would be an easy one for pictures, especially compared to last year when we were in the process of saying goodbye to our foster son.
The day before our photo session Will came down with a brief illness. It wasn’t bad, but he was under the weather enough to take a nap that afternoon, something that never happens anymore. But the nap also threw his sleeping off, and he was up before 5:30 the morning of our pictures. Which naturally meant he fell asleep in the car an hour before our pictures. And so it follows that when we woke him to get ready for the photo shoot he was not in a good mood, and there wasn’t much anyone could do about it. The short ride to our photo location we spent prepping Will and Emma with
incentives for cooperation and smiles, but to no avail. Surely he’d snap out of
it once we started taking pictures. Surely he wouldn’t cry the entire photo
session. Surely not, because look at our cute outfits! We are a happy family!
Not only did he cry for the entire time, but no promised incentive (gum! donut for breakfast! you get to pick a movie to watch! play in the leaves!), no amount of prayer with him, no time by himself to calm down, nothing would dissuade him from his determination to be miserable. Nothing that is, except the end of the photo shoot and the ride home in the car. The tears stopped, the whining ended, he was willing to talk, and even understood that his choices prevented him from receiving the promised gum, donut, movie, etc. Oh, how I wanted to cry and laugh at the same time, and even to pronounce punishment on Will (“go to your room, you ruined our pictures!”). But grace took over that day, and while he still did spend time in his room, he was told that he was a loved son despite any poor choices. Over the remainder of that day and the weeks that followed, those 30 long minutes trying to get a family picture have come back to me many times, and I think I’ve taken away two really important things from that day.
First, I have family pictures that are great, but they aren’t perfect. And I have a family that is great, but not perfect. So really, I have pictures of my family looking the way we actually look, which is NOT perfect. And second, I have a son who is a little sinner (he’s not the only one, I have a whole family of sinners, hence point number one). In Will’s pride and stubbornness he decided that he would not cooperate or smile for a picture. Mitigating circumstances aside, it was still his decision, made willfully and with full awareness that his choices were wrong. So often I am that stubborn, proud child before a Holy God. I dig in my heels and make my choice, willfully choosing disobedience over obedience. Then my perfect, loving Father comes alongside me in my tantrum and draws me to Himself, even in my sin. He doesn’t vindictively pronounce punishment from on high, though there may be consequences for my actions. He reminds me of His great love for me, His child. I didn’t get it perfect that day; there was anger in my heart and anger trying to jump from my lips. But I understand a bit more about God as our Father, as our loving Daddy, and how we are supposed to be like him as parents.