Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Living Behind the Lens

I prayed at the beginning of the summer that the Lord would make me a usable tool in His hands. I also prayed that God would remove idols and obstacles keeping me from serving Him fully. The week leading up to vacation, I started praying these prayers nightly... I had no idea what Christ had in store for me.

The second day of vacation our team went to an elephant camp to ride the elephants and see an elephant show. There was a certain elephant chained by the ankle as we approached the stadium. We all rushed to take pictures and pet its trunk which was reaching towards us. It seemed to be a bit feisty, so I took a deliberate step back. I took a few pictures of it, and my camera was hanging from my wrist. In the blink of an eye it charged forward (as much as its chain would allow) and simultaneously swung it's large, mighty trunk and smashed my hand. I watched in terror as it slung my camera in the air and then brought it down violently in a puddle of mud and animal urine. It was such a shock - my entire team was wide-eyed and frozen.

A Thai woman ran past the flailing trunk and retrieved my camera, and a nearby worker took me by my bloodied arm to a place where they examined me. Nothing was broken...only bruised and a little swollen. It could have been worse.

As a man cleaned my cut, I thought of my camera, and I got more and more furious. Never have I felt such a burning anger as I did toward that elephant. My thoughts were rather excessive and cruel, but at the moment I felt justified in my anger. Not only had that brute injured me, but he had completely ruined thousands of dollars of equipment and my more cherished belonging. I was heartbroken! I realized there would be no more photography for me for the rest of the trip!!

I took my dead camera and cleaned the grime off of it in the bathroom sink. All I could do was pray that I wouldn't allow this to ruin the rest of the trip... But I was mad. I was mad at God! How could he let this happen to me when I'm serving Him! 

It was later that God opened my eyes to the lesson he wanted me to learn.

Until this point, my camera had traveled with me everywhere, and without even realizing it, I was living life behind the lens. I spent more time setting up what I thought to be great, artistic shots than spending time with the people I was sent to minister to. I viewed them more as potential subjects in photos rather than people with a desperate need for Christ.

It's been a little over a week since I lost my camera, and it has undoubtedly been the best week here. I can see so clearly that God used this elephant to remove the idol of my camera from my life. I am no longer living behind the lens, capturing moments to hoard and treasure. God used this experience to show me that I am not here to document Thailand's culture, environment, traditions, food, or religion. This trip isn't about me showing the world what I did here. It's not about my creative work or my photos.

I prayed that God would make me usable, and in the most humble way I would say that He has. I wasn't prepared for how He was going to do it, but ultimately he has blessed me more through this than he has punished me.

It literally took an elephant knocking me senseless to realize that I was missing out on truly living and fulfilling my purpose of sharing the gospel and loving these people. Be careful what you pray for.... when you receive an answer, it may not be in the form you expected.