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How To Recognize You’re on Sacred Ground

Last night one of my closest friends texted me a photo of her mom clutching her father’s withered body the mouth taking the famed “O” that often accompanies death.

“My mom is heartbroken,” she texted. “Funeral is Friday.”

The message left me breathless. My friend had captured one of the most sacred moments of life—the passing of a family member—on her iPhone and passed it on without second thought for grandfather or her mom.

“Don’t share this image with anyone,” I texted back, fearful she would post it on Facebook or Instagram.

“This is a holy moment meant only for those closest, those present.”

Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything. Maybe I should have texted back, “I’m so sorry for your loss.” Nothing more.

But one of the high costs of living in the age of oversharing and TMI (too much information) is:

We no longer know to slip off our shoes or lay down our smartphones when we’re standing on sacred ground.

Sacred Ground

I’ve made this mistake many times.

Two years ago, Leif and I visited a Compassion project in Africa when a young boy appeared on the property with a head wound. Blood dripped down his face forming a pool on his shirt.

Our host sprung into action, applying pressure and bandaging the wound. The local children gathered around. I grabbed my camera to capture what I perceived as a profound moment of bringing healing and snapped several images.

That’s when the host yelled, “Put your camera down! No photos!”

I didn’t realize I was standing on sacred ground. The young boy lay wounded, vulnerable, and I was snapping photos. Though I meant well, my act was exploitative, dehumanizing, and lacked compassion—let alone permission.

We live in an age of oversharing, where people will do anything to get the photo or the video.

A friend recently shared that he was on a hike in the wilderness when he came face to face with a bear who paused before charging him.

“What did you do?” I asked.

“I pulled out my phone,” he said. “I figured if I was going to be mauled by a bear I wanted it to be on YouTube.”

“You’re about to die and you’re biggest concern is getting it posted on YouTube?”

“Yep!”

The friend showed me the video. As the bear sped toward him, a gun fired nearby, redirecting the bear’s attention and saving my friend’s life.

These stories illustrate that maybe in order to live more we need to post to less. Maybe in order to drink to enjoy and celebrate life and recognize holy moments we need to put down our phones and cameras and breathe in the moment.

Post less

Perhaps that’s why one of the most profound scenes from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was about a photo that was never taken. Walter finds Sean tucked into a mountain crevice quietly trying to photograph a snow leopard. Sean decides not to take picture of this rare, one-in-a-lifetime encounter because the moment is so precious he doesn’t want to be distracted by the camera.

The next time you find yourself standing on sacred ground be wholly and fully present.

Sip the precious gift God has given you.

This is a powerful tactic to fight back with joy.

I suspect the memories stored in your heart will be richer and more meaningful than what’s cheapened by posting absentmindedly online.

To be completely honest, in the beginning, I was really unsure how to share the story of my journey with cancer with you. I felt like my world hadn’t only turned upside-down, but it turned inside out.

So I made the decision to focus on what God was speaking to me during that time and spend as many seconds as I possibly could with my family.

The trade-off was that I didn’t post updates about my treatments or details about my suffering. I didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for me and even though I felt so many prayers and was so touched by the outpouring of love. I also felt a little guilty.

Would people think that I was sharing because I wanted attention? Cancer does crazy things sometimes. But, in hindsight, there was something else that prevented me from sharing, too.

To be honest, I needed some space because I could barely carry my own emotions and couldn’t imagine helping others process, too.

This journey has been the most painful experience of my life. And, to share about it requires some vulnerability. Okay, a lot of vulnerability. And, that’s really, really hard.

But, I feel like I’m finally ready to share what God has stirred in my heart along the way because although cancer has been the most painful journey, it has also been the most joyful. And no one is more surprised than I am.

Pick up a copy of Fight Back With Joy book and Bible Study, today.

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