I’ve heard photographers talk about finding their “why” when it comes to their business, and that it was a long, arduous process of thinking, prodding, and soul-searching. I never tried to find my “why” because of how darn busy I am, but then one day it struck me. Just & Mary guest posted on Jasmine Star’s blog a few months ago, talking all about storytelling marketing, and their first point was the following: “Figure out exactly what it is that you want them to feel. Be specific.”
It took me about three seconds for me to come up with how I want my clients to feel, and that word was “redeemed.” It’s a word that’s thrown around quite a bit in the Christian world, but I never really understood it until my junior year of college. Pardon this walk down memory lane (it’s kind of a long one)…
Growing up in high school I somehow came to a place where I no longer felt that I had any value if I didn’t have a boyfriend. I don’t know where it came from- I had an incredibly loving mom and dad who never failed to make me feel wanted, so this crippling insecurity must have snuck in as a result of something else. No matter where it came from, it changed me from a confident child to a cocky teenager whose projected assurance was just that- a projection. I was so incredibly unsure of my own value that I sought it out in guys- skipping around from one boyfriend to the next, as soon as I broke up with one I already had another lined up. My parents drilled it into me that I needed to be careful with my heart, but I ignored them. Of course. I figured I wasn’t drinking and doing drugs, so I was still ok, right?
And then I got to college, and my crippling insecurity resulted in even lower standards when it came to choosing boyfriends. Things that used to really matter to me sort of faded into the background. I found myself partying on the weekends, drinking too much even though I didn’t want to, and running with the completely wrong crowd. I hated the feeling- I didn’t like being out of control, I didn’t like dating someone that didn’t treat me for the jewel I knew I was supposed to be, but I felt broken and used up, completely dry.
Then suddenly, almost two years later, something changed- I ended my relationship in a freak moment of confidence and decided it was time that I finally heed my parents advice and visit CRU that week. So I did, and it sparked something in me, something I hadn’t felt for a long time- hope. I’d been walking on the wrong path for so long that I felt like Jesus wouldn’t want me anymore, but being back in a crowd of believers warmed my soul.
You know when something really good happens, and then there’s that one person who has to bring you down from your high? That happened to me with an small internal voice, an inner demon. Here I was rejoicing in my newfound liberty from my sin when a small nagging feeling in the back of my mind kept telling me “This is great and all, but you know you’re not as whole and worthy as those other girls in your Bible study, right?” I felt a wall between me and everyone else- I was unclean, broken, unworthy. That one battered box of macaroni left on the shelf that no one wants to buy. I was damaged goods.
I always knew I wanted to be a wife and a mother, I wanted a marriage where my husband would lead me, love me, and honor me in a way that reflected Christ. But being damaged goods, I started to believe that no good man would ever want to be with me, that I’d have to settle for someone that didn’t meet my list of “non-negotiables.” I was destined to be a second-class citizen, alone and marked as inferior. Like day-old bread that no one will buy, like those already-bruised bananas sitting alone in the grocery store. No one else was making me feel this way- just that ugly little voice in my head.
And then God spoke truth to me in the form of my discipler, Katie. These horrible secrets I’d been hiding, the way I was feeling, they all came spilling out during discipleship, accompanied by heart-wrenching cries of anguish, but also the relief of finally being able to verbalize what I was feeling. Katie cried with me, heard me out, and then told me something I’ll never forget:
“These. are. lies. These are LIES, Abby! You are cleansed by the blood of Jesus, your slate has been wiped clean. No one knows about your past, they can’t see it when they look at you- all they see is a pure, energetic and loving girl, exactly as you are.”
It was like someone had lifted this enormous sandbag off of my shoulders, like I’d been given new sight. This crushing burden of guilt, shame and secrets was lifted, and I could see the light of day again. I was redeemed.
Fast forward to a few months later and Matt entered my life. Matt, the most genuine, loving, kindhearted, gentle, pure, sweet and God-loving man I’ve ever met. I loved him because of who is he is, but I also loved him because of all he represented- everything I never deserved in a husband all wrapped up into one package, kind of like a gift from God that said “Even though you think you don’t deserve him, I’m giving you his heart. Take care of it.” Like I’d won the lottery without ever entering. Again, I was redeemed. I was so broken not even a year before, a shell of myself, and here I was being trusted with the heart of a GOOD man. I was so unworthy, but so thankful.
I know that my couples don’t share the same story, that all of them have different pasts, different struggles, different burdens. But I know that all of us need redeeming love, that at one point we’ve all felt unattractive, unworthy, broken, and battered, and love is what makes us whole again. That’s why I shoot- to show beauty and spread love. To show my subjects that they ARE beautiful, that they DO have worth, that they are VALUABLE. So I’m not really in the business of wedding photography. I’m in the business of reflecting Christ’s redeeming love.
This photo was taken right after we got engaged in January 2010 :). I took it using a self-timer during the second Snowmageddon that winter.
Happy Wednesday, friends!