Old Photos, Social Media & The Future

Have you heard of photobombing?  It is the “art” (term used loosely) of appearing in a picture that you aren’t supposed to be in.  So when you look through those special photos taken on your family holiday, there is some strange person making a face in the background just above Aunt Mildred’s head.  Thanks to a photographic digital age and social media, photobombing is becoming quite popular.

Well, I got photobombed in a different way a couple of months ago.  There it was – on facebook (of course) – a picture from my high school yearbook.  The Junior Boys Basketball Team in all of its pre-adolescent glory.  It had been many years since I had seen that picture, but there was no denying that it was me, trapped in the 80’s with bad hair, knobby knees and wearing shorts much too short.

KA-BOOM!

basketball team

Have you ever experienced this?  Like a bomb detonating in your mind, a picture from our past has the power to unearth some pretty powerful memories.  Some good, and some bad.

It’s like looking into the face of someone you once knew but can’t quite remember.  But then, in an instant, it can all come flooding back.  The fullness of your past threatening to drown you, to wash you away, each past glory and carefully buried hurt pushing at your heart with great force.  Suddenly you find yourself flailing in the torrent of your own life, trying to make sense of it all and bridge the gap between where you once were and where you are now.

Of course, it isn’t always this dramatic, but it can be.  The simple fact is that the young man I see in that picture, as distant as he seems, is still very much alive within me and always will be.  The experiences I would rather forget, I can’t.  The words spoken to me that I wish I never heard, echo in my life still.  The same is true for you – and some things can never be changed.

But many things can.

The apostle Paul had a former life that could have buried him.  And yet, while he could never undo things he had done, God’s grace lifted him.  Gideon was bound by fear and threshing out wheat in a winepress before God called him a mighty warrior which led him to the frontlines of a battle for freedom.  Esther, as beautiful as she was, lived in insecurity until God asked her to risk her life and save a nation.  Peter openly denied Christ three times, but even past failures didn’t stop him from speaking out about God’s unfailing love.

You get my point.  To God it’s not who we have been, it’s about who we are becoming.

A new year always reminds me that time marches on.  Sometimes we want to hold onto the past and other times we can’t wait to leave it behind – but either way it is never the past that we are moving towards…it is always the future.  Whether we like it or not, time is moving us all forward, and even though it doesn’t always feel like it, that is good news.

As individuals and churches, God’s promise to us time and time again is that He is leading us toward a future far greater than we could ever imagine.  A future filled with greater joy, deeper contentment, increased peace and ever-expanding influence.  Despite the relentless passage of time, may the year 2014 be a year that moves us even closer to who God is calling us to be.

And may we all have better haircuts than we did in grade 10!