From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace;
as the Law was given through Moses,
so grace and truth came into being through Jesus Christ. – John 1:16-17
Yesterday I posted a couple of classic photos from the 1980’s (see Teacher Shout Out) so I got curious and continued digging. That’s when I found one of my favorite portraits taken with my brother, Geoff. It’s been a while since I talked about Geoff in this space so this makes for the perfect opportunity.
This picture was taken in 1991, making me 35 and Geoff 37.
The backstory to this image is (over several years) a series of awful extended family photoshoots on the Maul side. Always coats and ties; always poorly chosen cheesy backdrops and photographers with no imagination; always tense, strained, artificial looking results.
So – and this kind of assertiveness was kind of unusual for me at the time – I stepped up and made some changes. I picked the studio, I talked with the photographer ahead of time, and I issued clothing guidelines. When my dad showed up wearing a coat and tie I asked him to change.
“We’ll see,” he said confidently, turning to the photographer, wallet in hand and with the air of the person paying for the session.
“Mr. Maul, your son has already settled the account for the shoot,” he said. “It’s casual, pastels and muted colors, nothing formal. We can hang your jacket and tie over here…”
I tell this story not to pick on my dad so much as to illuminate some of what I learned. First, that I have a good eye for composition. Second, that artificial posing does not wear well on any family – Mauls do not lean formal and it’s no use pretending. Third, footing the bill changes the dynamics considerably.
When I write, sometimes I form a phrase or a sentence and – suddenly – I know exactly where my post should be going. That just happened. So I will isolate the words then try to unpack them:
I guess what I’m saying is that the real story is always so much more redemptive than the posing.
My intuition to reject the traditional family portrait, and move into something more authentic, may well have been the first step I took toward understanding and accepting my brother for who he really was – rather than trying to make him fit with all the norms and prejudices that marginalized, judged, and did their best to exclude him.
I am, fortunately, a work in progress. God teaches me day by day, and in so many creative ways.
More and more I am learning to appreciate the true and the authentic. God loves each one of us, equally. God accepts us too. Jesus came and opened the door for everyone. The point of the Good News is the invitation. Our job is to hold the door open, and to be welcoming, and to understand that – when it comes to that list of things that can in no way separate people from the love of God – our prejudices and our exclusions do not stand a chance.
But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us. I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created. – Romans 8:37-39
Because God’s love is stronger and more enduring – DEREK