On the morning of Picture Day, I found myself standing over my son as he lay sprawled across the carpet in utter despair.
You see, I suggested he wear his blue-checked button down shirt with the coordinating puffy vest. He looks so very dapper, so handsome, so like a mini-model from J. Crew in that outfit — except he didn’t agree with my assessment, at least not that morning.
In between sobs, he informed me that he had already picked out his outfit.
My eyes narrowed as I carefully weighed my strategy.
Knowing that I already had some beautiful photos of him from an afternoon this past fall and that I had purchased the very smallest package of school photos possible, I decided this was a battle I need not fight and squatted next to him on the living room carpet.
“What outfit would make you feel the most handsome today, Jon?” I asked gently. In between hiccuping breaths, I heard the whispered words that made me cringe slightly inside: “My pocketless pants and my sleeveless shirt.”
Transcribed for everyone not familiar with my family’s particular and slightly unusual lingo: my son wanted to wear the muscle shirt he practically lived in all summer long and a pair of athletic pants that have a red racing stripe and a strange shimmer to them.
Yep. It was as bad as I feared it might be.
Hiding my resignation, I told him that he could wear whatever he wanted and watched as his face lit up before he scampered up the stairs and out of sight.
As he came back downstairs in record time, dressed like a 1980s miscreant minus only the mullet, I could not help but notice his megawatt smile and knew I had made the right choice.
To those who know nothing of my son or of the circumstances that morning, his school pictures are a funny juxtaposition of a dapper pose (normally perfectly complimented with a button-down shirt and puffy vest) and an outfit better suited to that 1980s stalwart movie, The Breakfast Club. His school photos this year are a culture clash of momentous proportions, except for the look in his eye and the infectious ear-to-ear grin on his face.
Once you look past the obvious mismatch of pose and clothes, you see a young man who is absolutely, unequivocally delighted. He is completely and totally pleased with his choice of attire, and you can see it in his twinkling eyes and enormous smile.
His school pictures this year are among my very, very favorite photos of my son. He is unabashedly and unashamedly Jon at Age Almost 5. I look at those photos and fall in love with my young man all over again; they capture the essence of Jon at this moment.
This small photo is the one that will sit on my desk all the years of my career while all the others get updated and rotated out for the newer, more current versions of my children. This is the photo that will forever make me smile a wobbly, teary smile while simultaneously causing my growing son to question why I ever let him make that decision, why I let him wear “that outfit” on picture day.
Do you realize that our Heavenly Father is the same way? That he delights in us? That we need not be dapper or sophisticated or put on a J. Crew persona — that he loves us, the real us, the core of us – without any pretense or ruse or mask? He meets us where we are at, today.
I don’t know about you, but I sometimes need that gentle reminder.
Lord, meet every person where they are at in this moment. Remind them of your deep love for them — not for what they can do, but simply because of who they are as your child. Fill their day and house with joy and peace. Amen.