A couple of weeks ago, the theme for the 52 week photography project I’m working on was “Abandoned”. That simple word conjures up so many visual images in my mind. The one true image my mind craves above all others is the simplest, yet most difficult one for me to actually achieve. It’s that of being completely Abandoned to God.
According to Webster’s Dictionary, Abandoned means “Wholly free from restraint, given up, We think of this word in a negative context, of dilapidated buildings, of being left behind. However, I want to think of it in a biblical context, that of being sold out, wholly free from restraint, given up on my own agenda and sold out to God’s.
What does this look like? How would I portray it in photos? Even greater, how do I achieve it in my heart so that it flows into the rest of my life?
It seems that there are many barriers that keep me from being completely abandoned to God. I would love to blame the barriers on everyone else but the truth of the matter is that the barriers are my own faults, my weaknesses, my pride, my self-elevation that get in the way and not the influences of others. Yes, others can say things that make me feel defeated or less confident. Their weaknesses can become my weaknesses if I allow them to, but it’s not their fault. It’s mine.
I reflect back on the story of David in 2 Samuel 6. David was returning with the Ark of the Lord and he was doing so with full abandon. He was completely sold out in his worship of the One True God and he was dancing with all his might as he led the way to the tent he had prepared for the Ark to be placed in. His wife saw him as she looked down from her window and she was disgusted by what she saw. She later went to David in her disgust and chastised him for his actions. His response to her was perfect; ““I was dancing before the Lord, who chose me above your father and all his family! He appointed me as the leader of Israel, the people of the Lord, so I celebrate before the Lord. Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes!” (2 Sam. 6:21,NLT)
That is the sort of abandon I deeply desire in my own life. What else in this world could possibly be worth more? Yet, I seem to constantly put things above this. I prefer to call out my own faults and failures in place of someone else pointing them out so I’m going to do just that here. Following is a list of things that keep me from abiding in the state of abandon.
1) Lack of true relationship with Jesus Christ – when I do not spend time building my relationship with my husband, Ric, there is a void, a lack of connection in the relationship. This is multiplied tenfold when I neglect my relationship with God, the living and ever present Creator of this world and all the creativity in it. If I neglect this first and most important relationship then what am I trying to be abandoned to? Myself? The World? My art of photography? Abandoned means being sold out to something and I certainly don’t desire to be sold out to myself, the world around me or my personal passions.
2) My fears and insecurities – This is such a huge battle for me and I am finding that the more accomplished I may become with my photography, the more I battle this one. I have always been fearful and insecure. I don’t think I come across that way to most other people unless they know me intimately. I think I may come across as confident yet I am so lacking in personal confidence that I am frequently paralyzed by it. When I was young I ran for a position on the Student Body at our Junior High School. I had to give a speech and run a campaign. I lost the election (I was much a “nerd” in school so I wouldn’t have won an election such as this) but my mother has commented many times how surprised she was that I would step out and take on something like that. You see, one of the things I gained from my parents was the ability to jump out and take action even in the midst of my own fears of failure. It has served me so well and I’m grateful for this character trait that God has given me as a strength because it helps balance out the weakness of fear and insecurity that He also allowed me. How can I live an abandoned life when I am so fearful of failure and so insecure about what I’m doing? The bible is filled with commentaries about people who couldn’t see their ability to succeed yet God has called them Faithful because, at the end of the day, they chose to step out and follow with Abandon. (Think Noah, Abraham, Moses, and others listed in Hebrews 11)
3) My Pride: Okay, this one is really hitting to the nitty gritty of it and this one hurts the most. It’s maybe the easiest to notice yet the most difficult to treat. Its symptoms in my life are reflected in my need for affirmation, my desire to “be the best”, my toiling to achieve perfection (perceived perfection, that would be, for perfection is subjective) and my hope that I will be noticed yet fear that I will be noticed. Does any of this sound familiar to you who might be reading this blog post? There are a plethora of ways pride can be shown and these are only a few that I’ve listed here. Even in sharing these thoughts I have to be completely honest and share the battle in my mind right at this moment; it wavers between wondering if I look “spiritual” to others for admitting this or hoping I can slay this pride issue by willingly admitting it. I know I’m not doing justice to my thoughts but this is the best way I can explain them. Pride trips me up continually from my own judging of my work to my judging of other peoples work and hoping that mine will somehow be considered worthy in comparison to others.
4) Comparisons : The last line of the paragraph above is about comparison. This is perhaps one of the last strongholds in my life that I have yet to find release from. Comparison. I A-L-W-A-Y-S find myself comparing myself to others. Do you hear what I’m saying? MYSELF compares MYSELF to others. It’s all about ME! That is so counter to anything God asks of me that I almost have to laugh at the ludicrousness of it. It’s silly to think that I can live a life of abandonment to God if I’m always worried about how I’m doing in light of how others are doing. David cared more about how he would appear to God and about how God would judge what was in his heart and actions than he cared about what his wife thought. His wife, who did not care about God at all, Am I willing to dance openly before the LORD regardless of what others might think? What if I dance poorly? What if I trip and fall, step on someone else’s toes, lose a shoe in the process, or horror of horrors find no one else dancing with me? Isn’t it so much more important that I do everything with a pure heart and quit worrying about what others might think, do, say or accomplish? Yes, it is.
I will spare you, my dear reader and friend, the details of the endless list of things that might trip me up in my quest to be abandoned to God. At the end of the day, it’s my hearts desire and my prayer that I would live my complete life sold out to Jesus Christ. I so deeply desire that whatever I produce with my photography would honor God and serve to bless those I’m photographing that sometimes I push others out of the way to get there. That’s not acceptable but what is acceptable is my willingness to become second. To be second to God, who should be first. To be second to others, who I am commanded to love as Christ loved. (Notice I didn’t say to love others as I love myself; John 13:34 says we are to loves others as Christ loved us. Christ loved me enough to die for me. That’s a pretty high standard) I know that the answer to true abandonment does not come from looking within me; that’s actually where the problem originates that keeps me from living the life I desire. The answer comes from looking to God, allowing Him to clean house in my heart, to remove the “me” from the equation and to make it a “Him” centered heart.
If I were to die tomorrow I would deeply desire that others would say these words about me because they saw them lived out in me: “She lived to be more and more abandoned to Christ and, while she stumbled along the way, she never lost focus of this one singular goal: To become more and more like Jesus Christ and to reflect Him in all she did”
I want to be Abandoned to the only thing that will matter at the end of my days and that is my relationship with my Heavenly Father. After all, He’s the one I will spend eternity praising and nothing will be about me other than my praises to Him.
I want all I do to be about the One who created me, who gifts me with any ounce of skill and creativity I might muster up and the One who brings me to places I never thought of before. Places where lives might be touched and people might feel blessed having a photograph that reflects the infinite creativity God has in creating us as unique individuals.
I want to go out to live and serve with abandon.