Last weekend, our family had a photoshoot with and for Mayad Beginnings, the photography outfit of the amazing Mayad Studios (who happened to do the videography for my sister’s wedding). Their make-up artist, Rochelle Lacuna, arrived early, probably about 6:30 AM, so I was in that chair getting prepped for the morning’s shoot before breakfast. Mayad Beginning’s team came into our living room and dining room not too long afterwards. It turned out that most of Mayad’s team goes to either our church, CCF, or Victory. But there was one lady whom I chatted with who seemed to be on a search for spiritual answers. I will call her J.P. for anonymity’s sake.
J.P. was the woman who contacted me to set up the shoot via email and it was our first time to meet face to face last Saturday. I began with small talk and eventually got to asking her about her spiritual journey, just to get a pulse for where she was at. Her honesty and openness afforded me an opening to share the gospel.
First, I asked her why she started attending CCF, to which she revealed that she had grown tired of a religion of performance and legalism. What she wanted was to have a relationship with Jesus, to be able to enjoy him and worship him and she seemed to find this in CCF. There couldn’t have been a more perfect time to insert what it really means to have a relationship with Jesus. And since my make-up wasn’t quite ready, we could continue talking.
While mascara and false eyelashes were being meticulously attached to my eyelids, I recounted my own spiritual journey, which began in my childhood. At the young age of nine, I despaired at the thought of my eternal destiny. Having no assurance that I would go to heaven, and fearing that I was most certainly bound for hell, I confessed to my preacher father that I was afraid to die. After a thorough explanation of how Jesus’ death on the cross paid for my sins and with an invitation from my dad to believe in what Jesus did for me, I prayed to receive Him into my life as Lord and Savior. My siblings and parents sat around me as witnesses since my question about eternal life came in the context of our family bible study.
This was the introduction to the Bible passage I shared with J.P. Since her disenchantment with her previous place of worship had something to do with good works as a basis for acceptance, I showed her Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not of yourselves, not as a result of works so that no one should boast.” I requested that J.P. read the verses and explain to me what each line meant to her.
“What is faith?” I asked her. And using the simple explanation I’ve often heard bible teachers use, I pointed to her chair and commented that she was exercising faith at that moment, as she sat on the chair, absolutely dependent on it to keep her from falling to the ground. In the same way, Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that we are not saved by our own works and good deeds. It is by grace, through faith in what God has done for us.
I proceeded to show her John 3:16 which says, “God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, so that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” What has God done for us? He gave us His Son, Jesus, to save us. What is our part? To believe, to have faith.
Still, J.P. said she struggled to give her life completely to the Lord because of past mistakes. She didn’t want to be presumptuous about God’s grace. So I told her the story of the thief on the cross by Jesus’ side, at the crucifixion. He had no opportunity to live a reformed life and yet when he expressed his faith in Jesus by saying, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom,” Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43)
Death by crucifixion was reserved for the worst of criminals so we know that this thief committed a major crime. Similarly, there may be people out there who feel like they’ve done the unpardonable, the unforgivable. But God’s grace is still bigger. His blood can cover that sin or sins. God’s invitation extends to everyone.
Therefore, the onus is on us to accept his gift, his salvation, or to reject it. There are only two options. Either we embrace what Jesus has done, by faith. Or, we make excuses like, “I’m not ready” or “It’s too simple,” or “It doesn’t make sense, from a logic perspective.”
The reality is, it doesn’t seem to make much sense. How can someone love us this much? I told J.P. that as a mother, I would never want to give up my children’s lives to save an evil person’s life. Yet God’s Word tells us, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)
From the perspective of human logic, it is incomprehensible because we are more familiar with imperfect human love. But God’s love is different. He loved us (loves us) in our total and utter depravity and sinfulness, and chose to take our place so we can be reconciled to Him. And while it may not seem reasonable, we can understand the longing to be accepted this perfectly. Haven’t we all attempted to fill an emptiness in our hearts with relationships, career pursuits, habits, hobbies, accomplishments, acclaim, money and whatever else? Yet these things will never be enough to satisfy or save us, no matter what new forms they assume to make us think they will.
I am married to a wonderful man who loves God, and yet, he cannot fill the hole in my heart completely. He can love me and take care of me to the best of his ability, and I can do the same for him. And we enjoy each other in special and exclusive ways that we do not experience with other people. However, the space inside us is eternally wide and deep. Only the infinite personhood of God can occupy the void so that we cease from our striving to fill it.
One of my favorite passages is found in Colossians 1:16-17, “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
Because we are made by God, for Him, we will not understand the fullness of joy, peace, love or purpose unless we experience these in the context of a relationship with Him. Why do orphans feel the need to know who their biological parents are? Why do they go through great lengths to seek out their real parents? We want to know where we came from so we can understand who we are supposed to be. Thomas Aquinas summarized the essence of this by saying, “Our hearts are restless until they can find their rest in You (God).”
I told J.P. that I believed God ordained our time together for the very purpose of letting her know how much He loves her. The photoshoot was the circumstance that God provided so we could meet and have that discussion. I gave J.P. emotional space to digest what we talked about because she struggled with the next step, the closure – surrendering her life completely to the Lord. She was engaged during the entire make-up session, yet I couldn’t force her to receive God’s love, grace, and forgiveness. This is something she will have to do on her own, between her and God.
Shortly after my conversation with J.P., I had to get ready for our first shoot. The morning passed quickly as our family posed for the three concepts that Mayad Beginnings had in mind. We had a lot of fun but the best part of that day was the thirty minutes I had with J.P. while sitting on the make-up chair talking about our spiritual lives.
God has given Edric and I many opportunities to meet people from all walks of life, and I know that these moments are pre-ordained and pre-orchestrated not so much for our benefit (which a photoshoot can feel like because the attention is centered on us). Instead, I believe that he intends for us to use these occasions to deliver the gospel in whatever way or form we can. Whether this means sharing a conversation about God’s love or acting and behaving in ways that reflect Christ-likeness, we must remember that the greater privilege is putting the spotlight on Him and not on ourselves. The greater purpose is to declare the message of God’s love, grace, and forgiveness.
I pray we never forget that the real star of our marriage and our family is JESUS. It’s not us or our kids. He is the reason why there is joy, love, and by His grace, forgiveness in our home. He is the inspiration behind the smiles and the laughter you will see in the highlights of our shoot. Thank you to Mayad Beginnings for capturing us so naturally. But thank you most of all to the Lord for the opportunity to be representatives of His Name.