There is a photograph of my wife and me that I love. The picture sits on a table in our bedroom so I see it daily. In the photo I have my arm around KaKi and we are standing in a park late in the afternoon. Her head is nestled against my cheek and she has the most beautiful smile. What makes it even more special is that the picture was taken by a dear friend who was hosting us for dinner on that particular evening.
There is another truth connected to this picture that doesn’t quite fit the perfect scene. Sometimes when I look at the photo I am reminded that a few hours before it was taken KaKi and I had one of the worst fights of our marriage. I’m talking top three blowouts in our twenty-six years together. Lots of raised voices, tears and hurt feelings accompanied this battle. Then, we had a dinner date to get to, ended up walking to a park afterwards, and our friend took a picture so special that we have displayed it in our home for years. Go figure.
Is the picture a fake because it fails to reveal the pain and anguish of that day? I don’t think so. The affection the photo captures is real. Maybe we keep it on display because it reminds us that for most of our marriage such closeness has been our truth.
But the picture is incomplete. Only KaKi and I know the back story to it, at least until now. If you were to look at it you would never guess the acrimony we had displayed towards each other just hours earlier. Funny how on the same day one can have a worst moment, and a best moment, bumping up against each other.
Many snap shots tell an incomplete story. Thirty second political ads can explain why a candidate is the devil, or almost a saint, but rarely do they tell us a truth that has depth. Bumper stickers can make us laugh out loud, or want to jump out and drop kick the person’s car, but there usually isn’t much substance to the one liner on the bumper.
Other snap shots we take come in the form of opinions or assumptions we make about others. Usually these internal pictures have been shaped by experiences we have had with people from a particular group. So, we might think “all religious people are narrow-minded zealots” because our experience with religion is of that sort. Or, we might say “Republicans could care less about the needs of vulnerable people in our society” because of the actions of the General Assembly this past year.
There is no question that many religious people are judgmental and cruel. And, the actions of the Republicans in the General Assembly this last year have done real damage to a lot of folks, especially the LGBT community by putting the marriage amendment on the ballot.
Yet, it isn’t a complete picture. I know a lot of people of faith who are inclusive in spirit and fight for the rights of LGBT people. I also know Republicans who work hard within their party to change hearts and minds about the homophobia that has overtaken many in the GOP. If our snap shot of religion and Republicans is not big enough to include these kinds of people, then we need to broaden our lens.
I hope for the day when many in the heterosexual majority also begin to see more than a surface view of their LGBT neighbors. I laugh sometimes when I hear broad generalizations like “gay men just want to have sex all the time” because I think of gay men I know who have not had sex in years and don’t seem much interested in it. Or I think of straight people I know who have few boundaries on their sex lives. Finding out someone is gay or straight really doesn’t tell you much about the person’s sexual appetite, or anything else for that matter.
In an information-based culture we are able to learn a little about a lot of things in a matter of seconds. We take constant snap shots and form quick opinions. Our failure to look beyond the surface to what is behind the picture not only limits us, but does harm to those we quickly categorize. We are all losers in the process.
I’m grateful for the picture in my bedroom because it tells me something more than my beautiful wife has a lovely smile. It reminds me that on one of our hardest days we still had enough love for each other to take a photo that is real and full of warmth. Knowing the whole story transforms the meaning for me.