Another year at Youth Convention, another breakthrough in my life. Needless to say, it was amazing. I was challenged, affirmed, rebuked, and renewed on several aspects. The convention theme this year was, “#TheSocialMe” and it was about… well, the social me. Who I am to you guys, what I’m labeled as in society, and how I should really identify myself as an individual. I came to Youth Convention with a pretty humbled mindset, I wasn’t necessarily struggling with anything in my life. My relationships were in check, my faith has been at its strongest for a long time now, family was doing great, school was going well- everything in my life was fantastic. I did, however, feel like I needed to learn more. I didn’t know what exactly that was, but I just knew that I had to improve on some part of my life. I’ve always believed that remaining humble to folly is the best way to obtain wisdom and discernment. This mindset brought me to one of the most profound revelations I’ve had in a very long time. On the second night of the convention, we were in service listening to Mark Ritchie preach his sermon. He talked about labels in our lives and how we should go about them. Labels such as “the nerd”, “the slut”, or “the jock”. I have never been labeled something so derogatory- labels for me went as far as positive things. As I sat there in service I thought to myself, “How can I apply this message to myself if I’ve never been harassed with labels?” I thought and thought until it hit me- my label was, “the photographer”. Its not any sort of innuendo or insult- it’s simply what I do. Okay, now what? Right at that instant when I found my label, he began to talk about positive labels. I leaned forward in my chair and listened closely- this had to mean something. He said that we should not do what we do to satisfy others, but instead utilize the platform God gave us to satisfy Him and His calling in our lives. He continued to say that we shouldn’t let the spotlight on us wash out the light within us. That right there… that hit home. I started to question not what I did as a photographer, but why I did it to begin with. I do photography because I love it- and I’ve done it so much that it has become a sort of identity for me. People identify me as a photographer because its who I portray myself to be on social media as well as in person. Now, the pink elephant in my head made its way in and the question arose, “Do I take pictures for the ‘likes’ or for the platform God gave me in my life?”
Later that night, I went into a hotel room with some of my church friends and my pastor, Tim. We talked about what stood out the most to us during the service, and I talked about my label as a photographer and my newfound conflict in why I do what I do. He responded by telling me something that I’ll never forget. As I sat there in a pool of uncertainty, he looked at me and said, “You need to find the balance between who you are and what you do.” Right there, I knew that that was the aspect in my life I needed to improve on. I needed to do photography because I love to do it, not because of the praise I receive on social media. God has given me a gift in photography so that I may do it for Him and his approval and rewarding, not for my followers’ likes and comments on social media. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the fact that so many people follow my work and support me. I just need to make sure that I don’t solely depend on the approval of my peers in order to determine who I am. It’s so easy to become yoked to societal approval in order to determine the value of your pictures through the avenues of social media. I need to find the balance between who I am and what I do. Not an easy thing to do, but I know its possible through the strength He gives me. This is the start of a new adjustment within my life, and its one of the most important. I care dearly for the gift God has given me in the arts and I will do my best in finding that balance between who I am and what I do. I’m so thankful for the knowledge I’ve gained at this year’s Youth Convention and how God completely superseded my expectations. He showed me where I was right and where I was wrong, and I’m utterly grateful for the new revelations I’ve came to this weekend.