Have you ever thought about what goes on behind the scenes with the families you see everyday? Some of them sure look picture-perfect, don't they? My husband, Ryan, and I have learned that isn't always the case. For example, our most recent family portrait looks like any other happy family. It's easy to look at others and compare ourselves. We imagine other people's lives to be perfect, and sometimes it is hard to measure up to the picture we see.
That portrait of our family appears in our church directory. It appears next to pages full of other perfect family photos. All of us are smiling, all of us are wearing nice clothes, and all of us look like everything is going great.
But would anyone guess by looking at our picture that we were tense that day? We had difficulty getting everyone dressed on time. Our boys kept fighting. Ryan and I kept telling them through clenched teeth to be nice and stop arguing. Our baby girls were crabby. The picture was taken during their naptime, and they cried during most of the photo session. Our individual pictures of the kids show Moxie with red-rimmed eyes and a pacifier filling her mouth. The photo was taken during the summer, and we were all sweating. I was worried my face would be too shiny. Marin would not allow us to put her down, and Moxie would not let go of my bracelet. Maverick was rambunctious, and tripped over an umbrella light. Ryan wasn't happy to be wearing a suit. More than one of us cried that day.
To top it off, after we all got situated (I decided to ignore Moxie gripping my bracelet), the photographer told us to say "cheese". At that moment, our son, Maguire screamed out "whiskey!" instead, and the photo was taken. The family seen in that portrait was just trying to get through the photo session unscathed. We lived. And the pictures didn't turn out half bad.
I'm sure each family that had their picture taken that day has a story to tell. We all may smile when prompted, but there is more to each story. It is only by connecting with others and building genuine, deep relationships with others that the perfect picture dissipates and we learn each other's reality. It isn't always easy to let others in. It isn't always convenient. It leaves us vulnerable. It can be messy. But I have to tell you... it can be among life's biggest blessings.
We have gotten to know many couples and their families over the years on a deeper level. Our "masks" come off, the picture-perfect image subsides, and we get real. The friendships we have developed are amazing. We are blessed by friends who accept us, flaws and all. We are blessed by friends who allow us to make mistakes. We are blessed by friends who share their concerns, fears, and joys. We celebrate each other's victories and we pray through each other's defeats. We laugh together, cry together, and share our hearts. They know the real people behind our "perfect" portrait, and we know them.
I hope you have people in your life like that. If not, it is never too late to connect and dig deeper. I would be lost without those friends. I am thankful for them everyday. Thank God they are not perfect, and thank God they understand I'm not perfect, either. I'm so thankful they allow me to be me... because if I kept smiling like that portrait all the time my cheeks would get really, really sore. It takes too much energy to be that perfect all the time; I would rather just be real. We might be perfect for a moment in a photograph, but eventually someone has to scream "whiskey!"