A long time ago (in a galaxy far away), there was a sweet and silly TV show called Candid Camera. Conceived in the 1940s and rebooted from time to time through 2014, it featured ordinary people caught on a hidden camera as they faced unexpected situations, usually involving a prank, trick props, a bizarre stranger, or a weird request. ("Can I borrow your shoes?") The camera would roll until the person expressed the peak of confusion, bluster, or frustration and only then would the hidden host of the show chime in with his famous catchphrase:
Smile! You’re on Candid Camera!
I snuck up on the lambs while they were sleeping under the pine tree this afternoon hoping to take a candid photo. Only Faustina stirred; she's the most vigilant and has a “big sister” vibe that lets the others sleep in peace. Now, I’m not suggesting Faustina is actually smiling in this picture, but it sure looks like it, doesn’t it? I mean, maaaaybe she is, in a sheepish way (no pun). She’s such a happy little lamb! But contemplating the photo gave me pause, if only to reflect on my own typical, candid expression as I go about my daily routine.
I’m pretty sure I’m not smiling. Truth is, I’ve got one of those “my face just falls that way” kind of writer-angsty thing going on most of the time. “What’s the matter?” Shepherd Ed will ask. “Nothing, I’m just thinking,” is my usual reply. But when I actually think about that, it occurs to me that I can—and should—do better. Oftentimes, a glance at a person's face reveals the hidden focus of their head and heart. Based on my own observations, a candid-camera would capture a lot of unsmiling faces in the world. The Bible offers a few clues as to why that might be...
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23) Are our candid-camera moments reflecting a Spirit-centered and Spirit-led life?
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:8) Are our candid-camera moments reflecting rightly-fixed thoughts? (Or are we “stinkin’ thinkin’?)
“A glad heart makes a happy face.” (Proverbs 15:13) Are our candid-camera moments expressing gratitude and joy for God’s incredible gifts of provision, grace, and salvation?
We don’t have to be walking, talking smile machines. How is that even possible in a world so troubled or when our own lives, relationships, or circumstances go sideways? But St. Paul encourages us: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2) If we really believe "God is good all the time, all the time God is good," then so is his holy will for our lives, every moment of every day. When we truly approve/accept God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will, our minds are transformed and our faces radiate the peace of Christ. Sometimes a "smile" is so much more than skin-deep!
(Sidenote: Mother Angelica once responded to a caller who asked: But Mother, how do I know what is the will of God? Mother answered her: Honey, if it’s happening, it’s the will of God!)
The familiar “Aaronic Blessing,” much beloved and repeated by Jews and Christians alike to this day, goes:"The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord look on you with his favor and give you peace." (Numbers 6:24-26)
Just imagine God’s shining face…shining with favor on you! If that’s not a metaphor for the smile of God, I don’t know what is. You and I may not be on Candid Camera, but we can and must strive to make our faces and the reels of our lives reflective of God's love. After all, the Lord himself is watching!
I’m thankful for Faustina’s candid “smile” and the way it instantly made me feel brighter and lighter (as well as tweaked my conscious!). In her own b-ewe-ti-ful way, she reminded me that our faces do not belong to ourselves, they belong to the world.
In the words of St. (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta, who knew that holiness is found in the simplest of gestures and expressions of love: “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”
Today, let's be mindful of our expressions and remember to:
Smile! We're on the Kingdom's camera!