The Photos We Don't Take

May 11, 2018

 

We live in a world of now. We want our food fast, or internet connection instantaneous, our news timely to the minute, and we have no patience for anything less. People take photos of their lunch and post it on social media to declare whether it's delicious or disgusting. We snap a picture of ourselves - sometimes ten times - just to make sure the selfie is just the right angle to present our best selves to our twelve hundred "friends." 

 

For what?

 

One of my favorite things to do is look at photo albums. I love seeing history unfold in the collection of milliseconds captured on that small 4x7 piece of paper. The older the pictures the better. There's something beautiful about a black and white snapshot of a woman in Victorian garb staring, stoic, back at the viewer. Or the scowl of a young boy in dirt-stained overalls, barefoot in the rocky soil, with a stick in one hand and a panting mutt beside him.

 

Photos used to capture moments we don't want to forget. They used to be taken in order to savor a beautiful day, commemorate a momentous occasion, or provide evidence that someone existed.

 

Today most people take photos for the sake of capturing everyone else's attention. "This will get a lot of 'likes,'" we think. "This will really attract more followers." "This one makes me look so cool." "This will make them jealous."

 

Instead of what photos used to say: "I was here. I existed, I mattered to someone and that's enough. This moment meant a lot to me. This is proof that beauty existed once, and can exist again."

 

The other day I went on a trail ride with a friend and had a beautiful time of rest and peace after a spring rain drenched the world around us. As the smell of wet grass, soft earth and yawning pine clung to my clothes, we emerged from the tail and a glorious sunset greeted us on the other side. Despite the dark rain clouds surrounding us, a pool of bright pink light burst forth from the center of the clouds in glorious rays of joy and hope. 

 

I nearly took my phone out of my pocket to take a picture. I wanted to remember the moment. Others will love this, I thought. The older I get the more I realize just how fickle is the human brain. How easy it is to forget the things we swore we'd never forget. Instead of pulling out my phone, however, it was as if God whispered: 

 

"This is for us. Just be in the moment. Don't try to capture it."

 

How often do we do just that? How often do we rush to capture the moment, only to realize we missed it? Or even worse, were too occupied - even in the midst of it - to see it. How often do we spend looking at the moments of life through a literal lens, rather than just being in the moment? 

 

I'm learning the beautiful, peaceful, encouraging experiences are best lived, not documented. Rest in them. Meditate on the physical sensations of the moment. Check in with the condition of your heart in that moment - how are you doing?

 

It's in the moments where we don't take photos that life happens. It's those moments we remember when we're at the end of ourselves. We don't take a picture of the coffee pot every morning, even though our spouse's thoughtfulness to make the coffee every morning is a huge part of our day that starts us off on the right foot. We don't snapchat every hug from our mother even though we can't imagine the day when she won't be there to give us one.

 

It's in the photos we don't take that life happens.

 

My suggestion this weekend: Let life happen. Put the phone away and be in the moment. As tempting as it is to take a photo, stop and just thank God the moment exists. Let it be, exactly as it is, between you and Him and whomever else is there. And let it pass.

 

"I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." - John 16:33

 

"You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!" - Isaiah 26:3

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