This past week, I've been asking myself: why the heck am I here? I believe one of my purposes for being in Ethiopia in this time is to get out of this "lifeboat" Donald Miller describes in his book Searching For God Knows What (I'm only half way through but it's already on my you should probably read to understand me a little more list). Before I came to Ethiopia, I believe I had one foot in and one foot out. Meaning I sought acceptance in this world through the ways others view me (who doesn't?) I’ve never been much on fashion, and I surely don’t own many nice things (I would probably break or lose them if I did). But what artist isn’t looking for the approval of others?
Every human being in his/her own human nature has one main drive: to be accepted, loved, and desired by others. Our human nature drives us to buy the clothes we buy, listen to the music we listen to, live in the neighborhood we do, even associate with the boring people we choose to associate with - all for the acceptance of others. All to be seen as hip, or rich, or cool. Whatever you want to call it. Since childhood our main goal has been to be the best of the best, to be in the "A" group as we called it at my middle school. To keep up with the Jones's.
But I don't even like the Jones's. They are boring and stiff and have no real friends. They have no community and the friendships they do have are (as Mean Girls like to put it) plastic.
But what if this desire was gone? What if our motives in life were NOT to get others to like us. What if our main and only motive was to make God happy and to simply allow Him to enjoy US?
I wonder how many times God speaks this to us in His word? It's the message He has been trying to get across to us since day one. Literally. Through Adam. These past few years since I entered the ministry and saw the things and the people who Jesus loved most: the poor, the motherless, the brokenhearted, and that's when I really began to realize how much that "stuff" didn't matter.
The fall of man came when Adam and Eve chose not to get their everything from God. They were so loved by him that it didn't even matter if they weren't wearing clothes! They were so madly in love with life and the Creator that nothing else on this planet seemed of need. But they (by their free will) chose a different course. This separation brought about a need and desire for something to fulfill that relationship that was lost - that relationship with God. The separation from God was so drastic that humans began to kill in order to be the best and rise to the top (Gen 4:5-10). Or as Miller likes to point out: it was so drastic that we all started wearing clothes...
These things have continued since the dawn of time. But where has is gotten us? I don't want to be known for my "stuff". The hardest thing that I'm trying to put down is the fact that I don't even want to be known for my art, my photography, design, but for how I love and serve my God. It's sometimes hard to put away my camera and serve when I secretly and thinking to myself, oh, what a great composition, or I bet this person would take a great portrait. Instead I need to turn my thinking into, wow, how I can I serve this person better today? Maybe it is through art, but most of the time it is not.
I think the most drastic thing that I have thought of in the past but am just now coming back to is how Jesus never once wrote about himself. There are no recorded writings from Him (other than the time he scribbled something in the dirt - which I've always wondered what that something was. Was is a picture? A story? Was it about heaven? Or you? Or me?) But because He was so great, His life was told by others. Those are some pretty tough shoes to fill. Especially in these days of Facebook, and blogs, and flickr that can make anyone look like they’ve achieved greatness by having a huge following.
I do thank all for the compliments on my art and am gratified beyond belief from what I've heard about my design. But what I would really want to be known for is how I serve and give to those in need.
So I'm putting down my camera for the time being until I can use it to serve. I hope you understand this. Maybe I can share my photos and experiences over coffee instead of over the internet one day. Don't be shy, I love a nice smooth Ethiopian blend :)