I love a good story, and some of the best stories are told by before and after pictures. We love them because they tell the story of transformation. Two snapshots, two remarkable changes. Living rooms, front porches, bodies. The way it used to be (maybe not the way we want) and the way it is now (so much better). You expect the difference to be obvious.
But most of life presents us with situations not easily captured with before and afters. I sometimes want to say, I’ve been remodeling too. See how my heart is a little more whole than it was five years ago? But a picture would simply show that I look five years older.
Struggling with RA, I sometimes want to say, See how much better my joints are than they were a couple years ago? But a picture would simply show the older thing.
This is especially true with grief and loss and change. See how my heart is recovering from the loss of my dad, my church community, even my faith? Others have their own stories about moving forward after the loss of a spouse, a career, a relationship. But again, pictures can’t really capture all that.
I have learned that even though before and after pictures are motivating and can encourage us to pursue goals that may be challenging, life is mostly the picture that isn’t easily captured. There are so many “afters” that go unnoticed, especially as we grow older.
Very few people post pictures after a kitchen has had one cabinet replaced, or after a small weight loss when there is more to lose. We patiently wait for the progress to be visible. The work was likely harder for the beginning changes because they required a huge overhaul: of habits and routines and structures in place for a long time. But what we really want is the picture that demonstrates transformation.
For all of us who are rebuilding, remodeling, and remaking a life affected by loss and change and challenge: please remember that the story of transformation you are carrying in your heart is beautiful and true. Pictures are one way to tell a story. But when pictures are not possible, words can step in and do the work. Words build stories, and stories build steps that we might see a new perspective.
In the quiet spaces of our hearts, we craft a narrative of strength, courage, and love that keeps us moving forward. Because it’s really not what others think that matters, anyway. It’s what we believe about ourselves and how we take our small (and not so small) victories with us wherever we go. And hopefully use them to encourage and inspire others to do the same.
The two transformation pictures on here are for a project that didn’t take all that long to accomplish. I snapped a picture before we started. It’s not a good picture, but you can never retake the before picture so it’s gotta work. We changed a plain wall into one that pops a little.
But what I really wish I could post are the pictures of all the changes in my heart. Life has made my heart softer, kinder, more open to the pain and struggle of others. It has been healing from trauma so deep I didn’t think I would recover, but I am. I want to post the picture. But I’m gonna have to settle for words.
“If it’s not on Instagram, did it even happen?” Even if it can never be posted on that platform, the befores and afters that no one can see may be the most real of all.