As a campus pastor, I am well acquainted with the rhythms of saying goodbye and saying hello. As we savor the gifts of one particular generation of students, we recognize that the next group of individuals that gather in Christ’s name at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities will be shaped by different experiences and bring different expectations as they join our community.
Written by Elaine Dorn
Siblings, animals, plants, bugs; anything and everything within reach was the waiting subject of my, perhaps a little over-zealous, snazzy rose gold digital camera that I received as a gift for my eleventh birthday. I loved snapshotting moments in time, catching the giggles of my younger sisters and brother and capturing tiny, everyday things that never failed to put a smile on my face: a roly-poly bug skittering across a blade of grass, the way sunlight peeked through the pine tree in my yard, and baby lambs scampering around the barn. Each of these moments, although small, were the ones that seemed the most impactful and worthy-of-capture to me because they disclosed the beautiful narrative found within simple, perfect moments in life.
Today, I still have that snazzy rose gold camera, even if it’s not my current moment-capturing tool of choice. However, my favorite instances to capture remain the same. I deeply love telling the stories of people, of places, and of the simple things that make the life we live so sweet. One thing I’ve learned, as a photographer, is that no story is too small or too imperfect to be worthy of telling; and I think it’s so incredibly profound in regards to our faith and God.
Personally, it is easy to believe that my story and I are not worthy of being told or noticed; that because I sometimes feel as though I don’t fit in or that I’m not enough, my story and I should just be scooted to the back corner where no one can see. However, as we look through the Bible, the people whose stories are told are just like me. Rarely are they the best of the bunch, the loudest, the brightest, the wisest, or the smartest; they are individuals with plenty of mistakes, insecurities, and struggles. Just because they are imperfect, ordinary people does not mean that God does not use them in absolutely incredible ways. It doesn’t matter if they are as talented as the people surrounding them, or if they feel about as impactful as a roly-poly bug on a blade of grass. God chooses to capture their story, and through it, show people the depth of God’s love. In fact, it is through those imperfections that God does his greatest work (definitely check out 2 Corinthians 12:9). I have found the same to be true, time and time again, as a photographer. It is pretty rare for perfection to tell a good story through photos. However, candid, imperfect moments are the ones that never fail to create a photo that brings delight and joy to a viewer. The same can be said for ourselves. If we allow God to use us in our mess, in our imperfection, and in our candid moments, God can bring life and love to those around us in ways we never thought possible.
Several students resonated with that learning, and together, the folks who identify as white in our community decided to read Layla Saad’s “Me and White Supremacy,” and we are now inviting members of our broader community to join in this work together, as we prepare for a spring semester of deeper work.
I am a scientist. I am also a Christian. Many would say that this is not possible, from both sides of this coin.
As the son of two Lutheran pastors, I literally grew up in churches. I remember antagonizing my brother one Sunday, resulting in him slapping me in the middle of my mom’s sermon. Yet, the ladies in our congregation still gave us pie that Sunday afternoon. In that moment, I learned that God’s abundant mercy and grace can be seen in people, too.