I had a wonderful neighbor and a parishioner in my seminary years. She was a 90 year old widow who lived across the street from the parsonage. She often invited The House of Bishop to her larger family events and we were grateful. For the three years I served that student appointment in Georgia, she helped give us a sense of family and place. She also made fried apple pies. Frankly, she made fried everything. I gained ten pounds a year in Georgia but I digress.
When you entered the living room of her modest mill village house, there was a poster-sized, cheaply framed and somewhat bent up picture of her family that must had been taken a decade or so prior. Someone had taken a photograph and blown it up. The photo quality was suspect and it had faded more than a bit but it was the focal point of her home. My neighbor stood front and center. She was the matriarch. This was her tribe. It was perched right behind the sofa of the living room.
There must have been sixty people in that photograph…or there used to be. It appeared that time had taken a toll on her family and as divorces and estrangements piled, she had literally cut people out of the photograph. That is right, she took the photo from the frame, found some scissors, cut them out and rehung it. There had to be at least eight of them cut out. Gone. Just an empty outline of the space in the photo (and in her heart) they once occupied. My imagination ran wild. What did these people do to get cut out? Had anyone ever been cut out and then taped back in? I really liked to study that huge photograph. It was honest. Perhaps not Christian in the purest sense but honest.
As I think about that photograph, it occurs to me that bad things happen within every family. That is a part of life in a fallen world. But we do well to do everything in our power to keep love on the wall and the scissors in the drawer.
-Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois