My wife and I are dear friends with a couple back in Texas, where we lived for nearly two decades before relocating to the coastal Carolinas. Not only are David and Lesli West like family to us, but their back story also shows how God operates in the shadows.
Years before David ever asked Lesli to a church-based event that would become their first date, the two had previously worshiped in the same congregation while they were married to different people. Their relationship was cordial at best. Any interaction was a greeting in the pews or in the hallway between services.
Church leaders, and a few intimate members of their place of worship were keenly aware of the soul-crushing depths both were plumbing separately. David and Lesli were fighting tooth and nail to keep their respective marriages—and families—from disintegrating.
Despite all their efforts and prayers, both marriages ended in heartache. Years later, and still in the same church, their second story that led to their marriage on a cool Spring day in lush Southeast Texas is one so rich in redemption that it reads like the story of Ruth in the Bible. God took two torn and broken pieces of flesh, riddled with the wounds of infidelity and marital disappointment, to create one new flesh.
Not too long after their marriage, David was helping to fix something at my house, and we had to make a run to the hardware store. On that short drive, David said something that stuck with me. We were talking about marriage. “Tom, I wanna be like Job and make a covenant with my eyes. We’re human. Sure, you can see a pretty girl on the street. But snap your neck back into place. Don’t let your eyes linger.”
David was talking about that verse in the Book of Job where the suffering patriarch pleads: “I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman?” (Job 31:1, NKJV)
Why is my blues and theology-loving buddy’s key ingredient to a healthy marriage so important? Because it can be applied to our craft, particularly as photographers.
Only by developing “discipleship of the eye” can we tell stories that matter—from calendar-ready landscapes to gritty street photography. As believers in a Christ crucified, and a Christ resurrected, our photos can give a glimpse into who God is by exploring His creation.
From the majesty of creation to the hidden beauty in the opaque world around us, our lens is the quill we dip in light, shadows and color. Photography, like poetry, cuts through the dogma and petty self-justifying doctrine that can so easily separate us.
As the tired but true cliché goes, however, that’s easier said than done, of course.
With over one billion images uploaded to social media platforms every day, I sometimes find myself struggling to find clarity.
Bombarded with everything from seeing friends and family on their dream vacation to savvy internet marketing, I feel adrift on the turbulent waves of ‘likes.’ I find myself questioning my own value on social media platforms where self-styled Kingdom Influencers and Pop Culture content creators deliver the ‘Good News’ in canned monologues and jingles.
Social media, instead of bringing us together, is making more of us feel more depressed, alienated, and sometimes envious of the seemingly perfect lives we see on our smart phones. And to be honest, it’s wearing me down.
But I am hungry. My eye is hungry. My heart is hungry. I need to see God.
While some may see my friend’s Job-inspired comment as prudish and old fashioned, I see the simple and sublime wisdom in it. I find myself applying David’s rule of thumb beyond the scope of that original conversation so many years ago.
Instead of questioning who I am through the distorted lens of social media, I have to remind myself: Snap your head back, lad. Don’t let your eyes linger.
Featured image is courtesy of Tommy Liskey and used with his kind permission for Cultivating.
Tommy Darin Liskey was born in Missouri but spent nearly a decade working as a journalist in Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi. His poetry, fiction and non-fiction has appeared in The Red Truck Review, Deep South, Driftwood Press, Biostories, Spelk, Heartwood among others. His narrative and documentary photography has been published in The Museum of Americana, Change 7, The Blue Mountain Review, Cowboy Jamboree, Literary Life and Midwestern Gothic, among others. He lives in Texas with his family.
“I take a more documentary approach to photography, using the camera to explore faith in images, and hopefully, the human story, through unplanned street portraits of people I meet in my both my travels, and everyday life. As both a writer and photographer, I believe my calling is to be present. I pray that God choreographs the rest.”
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