A few years back, I started taking pictures at some of the street meetings I had organized or attended. I was a little hesitant for what turned out to be a bunch of really stupid reasons. I knew some guys, and one guy in particular that photographed and videoed everything and then posted the videos online to show how ‘brave’ or ‘tough’ or ‘sold out for God’ they were. All their videos had titles like “Brave Street Preacher Squares Off Against the Wicked Sinners” or some such idiocy. In the case of still photography, they would put together these massive scrapbooks detailing their ministry exploits that they would then foister upon younger street preachers. I know a guy that literally wouldn’t preach unless somebody had a camera. The whole vibe was “Look what I have done”, and I didn’t want to be that guy.
I had shared these concerns with my own ‘great white father’ in the ministry and he told me “When you get older, you’re going to need those pictures.” So I started taking a picture here and there. For example, every year we go to the same spot in Savannah and take a picture in front of the same statue. Every time we preach with the good folks in Deland I try to get a picture. There’s a shot of my by myself in St. Augustine outside the old city gates, and a shot of me in Beaufort, SC. There’s a group of us outside the stadium in Jacksonville. If you come to my house, in a corner of my living room you’ll see a cluster of frames on the wall, and inside those frames are the pictures I’ve taken. The cluster has outgrown my frame supply, and I have pictures tucked in the corner of the frames of other pictures. It’s probably not the first thing you’ll see when you come in; in fact you may never notice it unless I show it to you. But to me, that cluster in the corner has become one of my most precious possessions.
That little corner of my house has not become a monument to the great things I’ve done, because I haven’t done any great things. It has become a small, humbling reminder of what God has allowed this old wretch to do for his sake. The focus in these pictures, at least for me, isn’t what I’ve done, but who God has allowed me to do it with. There’s a shot of Colton just before he hit his growth spurt where one year he’s halfway up the statue, and the next year he’s blocking out the words on the statue. There’s Darnell, who is usually the handsomest man in any picture we take together. There’s my kids in strollers, and Douglas before he was married. There’s a shot of Donnie at his first time out with us, and Miss Anita and Miss Darlene, and Doug’s eventual wife Rachel. There are even pictures of Aubrey and Natalie, plus one picture where I know they were there, but he couldn’t find a parking spot so they’re not in the picture. These are the real treasures of life, the friends God has given me, and allowed me to serve with. When I’m down, which happens way more often than it should, and way more often than probably anybody suspects. I will walk over to that corner of my house and look at these pictures and remind myself that my life and my ministry are not in vain. Here are people that have trusted me and served with me, and wept with me.
Yeah, Sutek was right, as usual, I already need those pictures.