Six of us were sailing yesterday. It was a beautiful day with steady wind and large swells. Fast enough to be fun, yet very relaxing after a long and busy weekend.
Suddenly we were in the middle of a HUGE school of dolphin. Riding the waves, playing in our wake, slapping their tails and even jumping clear out of the water. We had a front row Sea World experience without any trainers involved! At times we could have almost touched them — and this lasted for about an hour. It was magnificent.
Where are the pictures to post on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram (none of the photos on this post were taken yesterday)? We have none. Not one of us had a phone or a camera. We briefly lamented that this would have been a perfect Go Pro moment, but then we simply enjoyed the dolphin — without the distraction of missing the perfect shot. It was absolutely delightful! We were all exclaiming, applauding and laughing. Truly a memorable time.
I love photographing special moments, and I love having beautiful pictures… to help my failing memory and to”share” with others. But yesterday I was reminded of what I used to know intuitively: the value of fully living in a special moment — with no regard for the Kodak capture. Just remembering the moment as I experienced it with others, and with all my senses.
The day before this, we were kayaking in the midst of scores of sea turtles. The normally timid creatures were popping up like popcorn. Mostly they ducked under as soon as they noticed us. But a few seemed as curious about us as we were about them — and floated at the surface a while. It’s a good day when we see one sea turtle… over Memorial Day weekend, we saw about 40! All swimming, all wild, all without a camera nearby. Again — we were forced to be fully present enjoying the beauty of all God’s canvas, without the distraction of photography.
In no way am I demonizing photography. I have scrapbooks, multiple cameras and love capturing life through a lens. Photos are great, but memories can be totally awesome too! I’m glad the fear of wet electronics left me cameraless for these special times with the dolphin and sea turtles.
Dallas Willard said, “Everything God does displays the inexhaustible creativity and extravagant generosity of the One who invites and empowers us to imitate him. Creative people long to be more like Father!”
I have a few very creative photographer friends. I appreciate their dedication to their craft and art immensely — whether they take photos of every day life, weddings, portraits, nature, journalism… all are good and meaningful representations of God and His work through them. A picture does speak a thousand words. I like to think the same happens in me sometimes, when I create enduring art with my paint brush or a camera.
But there’s an ambivalence in me that I think is worthy of my attention. I’m not always into tons of pictures — because I have a tendency to let them take over and recreate my memories of very special moments — especially the ones that have a lot of emotion attached to them. Times like weddings, family gatherings, baby’s firsts… I like a few snap shots (at rare times, a video), but I don’t want to miss the real thing because of my compulsion to have the moment immortalized. Nor do I want my memory — created with my heart, mind, spirit and all 5 senses — to be faded to resemble a photo.
In fact, the times when I have taken the most pictures, have been more documentary in nature. On safari in Africa (over 1600 pictures on 35 mm film), traveling alone in Italy (3 boxes of developed photos) — my camera was my friend. I was capturing all I was seeing, so that I could later share that special experience with someone.
Significantly, I was not fully sharing portions of these trips emotionally, and my pictures were in a way, an attempt toward that in the future. Not a bad idea, but in making my camera primary, did I possibly miss an opportunity to share these experiences more deeply with God? To know and understand Him better? I think so.
I think maybe God gently nudged me this weekend. I’ll still love taking pictures. But more often, I want to mix in times where I am intentionally and fully present with God, just enjoying Life with Him (even if He offers an amazing kodak moment). I’ve slipped a little too far toward seeing the value in the captured and electronically shared moment, rather than the gift and the Giver.
Times like we had with the dolphin take on an added significance. They are moments to watch the Creator’s hand — His artistry — and to be with Him and His creation (human and otherwise). He showed us His love and His presence in His creation. He gave us a thrilling shared experience. “We’re never nearer Christ than when we’re lost in a holy amazement at His unspeakable love.” John Owen “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. The essence of faith is being satisfied with all that God is for us in Jesus.” – John Piper
A couple of Bible verses pop into my mind…
Romans 12:2 which God is continuously placing on my heart lately: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
And Jeremiah 9:23-24 “Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.’”
I’m committed to spending a little more time knowing God and boasting in Him in the midst of my many kodak moments, before I grab my camera to capture and share the moment, through photos, with others. And I’m trusting Him that I’ll still have a lot of opportunity to capture Life through my lens for posterity!
Another treasured time: More of our family were gathered on the porch on Sunday than usually get together… thank goodness someone thought of snapping a photo! 😉