When Pictures Aren’t Worth Their Words

by Allyson Todd May 20, 2020

Facebook memories are a glimpse into some of our most unsavory internet moments. For me, I only look at them when my boredom tires of the newsfeed and transitions to curiosity. 

What was I doing on this day 11 years ago? 

Most of the time I chuckle at the seventeen-year-old and her status that read, “Allyson Todd…is ready for this stupid school year to be over. ugh.” Ugh, indeed, younger me. 

Thankfully, no one else can read these forgotten and cryptic posts, but I still squirm as I scroll. 

I don’t know what caused me to long for the end of my junior year, much less what events occurred to warrant a post about said longing. It’s lost forever in my memory and in Facebook’s void. And then there are photos. They tell a story that I actually remember. With one photo, I can recall an entire day’s worth of words and activities.

Everyone knows that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” or at least that’s what they tell us. But what happens when the words in a picture scream, cut, wound, or altogether lie?

I saw a picture like this. It sat between a quote from a theology book and a status about a softball game, and I didn’t squirm; I winced. Immediately, I remembered the cutting words spoken to me by a friend that day. I remembered the joy I felt watching friends exchange vows. I remembered that we all went out to eat, I remember where, and I remember who “we” were. Before my eyes was a life I no longer lived. 

Now, when I say “we,” it’s not those friends. I don’t own that dress anymore. I don’t live in the same place, have the same job, or go to the same church.

I am thankful most of the “no longers” and the “no mores” are gone. Truly. 

Yet this picture still said words I didn’t want to hear. It asked me, “What if?” and “What a fool you were back then, remember?” 

Kindness is not a virtue I exercise toward myself, especially in my memories. I don’t mean the “Be Kind To Yourself,” squishy, rainbows and butterflies version, but the real kind of kindness. Kindness that knows the worth of the recipient. 

But I know that I am not worthy of kindness. I have failed to love others selflessly, always wanting something in return. I have failed to choose the pleasures of God above the pleasures of this world. I know better than anyone how unworthy I am. When a Facebook memory appears, I’m reminded all the more of my failures and my bad decisions. Some may even call this “virtue.” Yes, you should always see how sinful and awful and unworthy you are. Don’t forget it. 

True, I need to know the depths of my sinfulness to truly appreciate the mercy of God. Scripture is clear that we are not strangers to sin (Jeremiah 17:0, Romans 7, Psalm 51:5, Ephesians 2:1-3). Letting unworthiness be our dwelling place is only part of what God says is true about us. 

It is not “virtue” for the children of God to speak only of their past failures. Confess sin? Absolutely. Let sin be what attributes us our worth? No longer and no more. 

– Do not let sin reign for we are under the law of grace (Romans 6:12-14).

– The flesh was put to death and we now live by the Spirit (Romans 8).

– Sin does not abide in us if we abide in Him (1 John 3:6-7).

When memories rub up against a wound not fully healed, we wince. We are reminded of things we can’t undo, of regrets we can’t convert to comforts. We cannot silence the words our photos say. But we can call out the words and make them speak to Jesus. Tell Him what you just told me.

They say, “You are unworthy! You are a failure! You should have known better!”

Jesus does not dignify these words with an answer. Instead, he turns to me. He turns to you. He says:

“Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” – Matthew 10:29-31

We are worth more than many sparrows. What better words these are! 

Jesus calls us worthy. Not by our works, not by our righteousness, but by His. By Jesus’ perfect life on earth, we receive an example and a substitute for our inability to live perfectly. By Jesus’ suffering and pain, we receive the gracious gift to walk in His footsteps and suffer for His glory. By Jesus’ brutal death, burial, and resurrection, we receive death to sin and life everlasting. Why would anyone give us such marvelous gifts unless He thought we were worthy of them? 

God has called us worthy, Jesus secured our worthiness, and the Spirit comforts and reminds us that this worth we possess is true and from above. 

I need to hear of my sinfulness, yes. I need to hear about my worthiness too. Knowing that God called me “worthy” combats my fear that I have to earn the title. God gave worth to me that I might tell of how gracious, loving, and kind my Father is to me. 

I stare at this picture of me engraved on the internet and turn to look at the massive picture of the gospel hanging over my head. This gospel is the only picture actually worth a thousand words. But a thousand words won’t do it. We wait for the day when endless words of praise pour forth from the nations.

Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered

to receive power and riches

and wisdom and strength

and honor and glory and blessing!

Blessing and honor and glory and power

be to the one seated on the throne,

and to the Lamb, forever and ever!

-Revelation 5:12-13