Just Be You

Today’s entry is a collaborative one. The first section is a reposting of a blog Rob wrote earlier this week about nature photography.  In the second section Chuck shows how Rob’s words also apply to the spiritual life. Rob at Mono Lake not shooting Mono LakeIt has taken me a long time, a lifetime in fact, to learn a very simple rule for getting the best from my photography. Be me.

Over the years, I have chased the looks of photographs made by well-known photographers I liked. It is one thing to be inspired by others, but truly, the only people who can do their work are those photographers themselves.

I have chased gear that others had, even have been envious. Instead of focusing on the gear that is most appropriate to me. Gear is obviously important because without it, we can’t photograph. But thinking too much about the gear others have is a distraction from my own photography. Be me. Be me2
I have chased the latest techniques hoping that would lead to a breakthrough in my photography. Learning new techniques is always valuable, but not when they overwhelm who I am as a photographer. I really don’t have to know everything about every new technique. Some really aren’t for me. Be me.

I have chased the approval of people important to me, from other photographers to family. Sure, people close to me are important, but not as arbitrary evaluators/critics of what I do. I can desire to learn what people think, but only as one input of many and an input I can chose to use or not. Be me. BeyondObvious5I have worked hard to produce work that no one can criticize. That is unrealistic and ultimately restrictive. It also guarantees mediocrity. If I try to please everyone, I end up pleasing no one, especially myself. Be me.

Really, the number one rule for better photography, for more satisfying photography, for more authentic images is to be me. And for you to be you.

–Rob

_DSC3806When I read Rob’s excellent blog on nature photography earlier this week I couldn’t help but see parallels in the spiritual life to what he was saying about photography.  A lot of Christians find people they admire and then do all they can to be like them.  Some may seek to be Mother Teresa but there was only one Mother Teresa.  Some may want to be just like Billy Graham but there is only one Billy Graham.  We can certainly all learn from the lives of other people of faith who have lived exemplary lives but in the end our calling is not to be them but to be us.  Some of the techniques or disciplines they used to enhance their journey may work for us but we should not assume that they automatically will.  Each of us have to find our own way.

When I was much younger I was pretty much convinced that there was just one way to be a Christian. I expected other people to conform to this image and if they did not I tended to judge them.  I now realize just how immature and naïve I was.  There is no one single way to practice the Christian life.  There are as many spiritual pathways as there are spiritual pilgrims.

_DSC4105In his book, Sacred Pathways, Gary Thomas writes about nine different spiritual pathways: 1) Naturalists—loving God out of doors; 2) Sensates—loving God with the senses; 3) Traditionalists—loving God through ritual and symbol; 4) Ascetics—loving God in solitude and simplicity; 5) Activists—loving God through confrontation; 6) Caregivers—loving God by loving others; 7) Enthusiasts—loving God with mystery and celebration; 8) Contemplatives—loving God through adoration; and 9) Intellectuals—loving God with the mind.  In the end the spiritual life truly is about loving God but there are many ways a person can do this.  Thomas’ book helped me to understand this.  No one path is the right one for everybody.  Nor are we limited to one path only or forbidden to change paths as time passes or our circumstances change. _DSC3914God wants you to be you. God doesn’t expect you to be anybody else.  If we try to be someone else we will miss out on the joy of being ourselves and lose the freedom we are meant to experience in being the persons God created each and everyone of us to be as individuals.  Be you.  You’ll find that far more pleasing in the end and so will God.

–Chuck