by Emily Conrad
One of my tender childhood memories comes from a field trip I took with my class to a natural, wooded area. My mom came along as a chaperone, and I had a camera–real film back then. Toward the end of the day, my mom and I separated from the group and explored a little creek with a bridge going over it.
I longed to take a picture of it, but the bus was leaving, and I’d left the camera with my things.
I climbed aboard the bus to leave, in tears because I couldn’t take the picture.
Looking back, I believe the desperation to take the picture was about a lot more than the scenery. I was there with my mom, just me and her. I have three siblings, so that didn’t happen a lot. And it was peaceful there, something, to be honest, our house wasn’t always. There was a secret, tucked-away feel to that place.
In the eyes of my childhood self, the area by the bridge was a beautiful, wonderful place.
Maybe my interest in photography now stems back to that memory, a desire to not miss another opportunity like that.
I have multiple cameras these days. I must be emotional this afternoon, because I’m tearing up at the thought of how grateful I am my DSLR arrived just days before we got our black lab’s terminal cancer diagnosis. Snapping photos, especially nice ones, is a privilege I don’t always get, and the pictures I took of her then are precious to me.
But, to be blunt, my dog still died. I still ache on seeing those pictures. Moments don’t last whether I get a shot of something or not, and sometimes the effort of capturing a snapshot of a moment keeps me from really seeing the experience with my own eyes.
We saw a bear in Banff National Park in Canada a couple of years ago. Or at least, my husband saw one. I couldn’t really make it out. I tried snapping a picture anyway, and all the image reveals is a forest. The camera and I both missed out, me, in part, due to the camera.
I’ve also taken pictures of things I considered interesting or beautiful only to look back at the photo and wonder what the draw was. Why did I take this?
And, of course, there are times when the good shot was obvious, but I missed it, as in the case of the moose photobombing this detailed picture of a bush.
Knowing the limitations on my photography skill and considering how much younger I was back then, I suspect that if I’d gotten that shot of the creek on my field trip, I’d have a picture that would look like an uninteresting cement road crossing a trickling stream. Perhaps the embankment was full of weeds, not just the golden grass I remember. Would I have even gotten my mom in the shot?
Why did that little girl–why do I still–want that photo so badly? Because beauty is fleeting, and rest is precious.
We don’t get to stare into beauty 24-7. We don’t experience awe, wonder, and rest in every place our days carry us. And so, I would still love to stockpile these things–beauty, awe, wonder, peace, all stored safely away for moments when I need escape, rest, and reassurance.
Perhaps you’re a stockpiler, too. Picture-taking isn’t our only strategy, is it?
Our fear of missing out can lead us to rush through experiences we should savor; we experience more, but shallowly. Our fear of forgetting or losing a moment can leads us to spend unwisely on mementos that collect dust. Our desire to remember can lead us to hang onto clutter. Any of these can become compulsions that interfere with the memories we make/otherwise would’ve made.
The root of this stockpiling is based in fear. Fear compels us to see and do and save it all.
Refusing to do more than enjoy a moment is an act of faith.
In faith, we believe God is good and He does good (Psalm 119:68), and the eyes of His people will see His goodness (Psalm 27:13). There’s plenty of time and ample opportunity to taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8). Whether it’s natural beauty or emotional refuge, goodness is in bountiful supply with Jesus.
Beauty may be fleeting, but because of Jesus, it is not rare.
We can live in trust that the memory will hold, and if it doesn’t, new beauty will replace it.
We can stop losing on the gamble, stop scrambling to do and see and capture it all when we have no way to truly hold onto something that can’t be touched to begin with.
We can capture in our memories moments that would spoil on camera. We can see the beauty in the most glorious way–firsthand. We can enjoy and live adventures untainted by desperation.
I don’t want to be desperate in the middle of my life’s best experiences. I want to see. I want to form a new memory untinged by regret.
Yes, I still take a lot of photographs. All the photos in this post are from our recent trip to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. But I’m learning to choose faith over desperation.
Over fifteen years ago, when I stood in a clearing the woods with my youth group, observing the Milky Way, taking a picture was out of the question. Instead, I tilted my head back in awe and formed a memory that stuck with me for over fifteen years.
When we set out to see the night sky in all its glory in Grand Teton National park this month, part of me wanted to bring my camera. I don’t have much nighttime photography experience, and I’ve never successfully captured stars on film, but that little girl in me wanted to try.
Faith said, leave the camera behind. See with your eyes tonight. Don’t be that desperate little girl, tainting memories with a futile desire to capture and preserve what you’re meant to enjoy.
I listened this time. The camera stayed in the hotel.
It’s by faith that I don’t have a picture of my own to show you of the stars I saw that night. As I type to you now, I don’t even have to close my eyes to see them again. I still see the clear path of light etched in the navy sky by a shooting star.
Steeped in this new memory, I reach for my childhood self, crying on the bus. I wrap her up in the knowledge and faith the Lord has grown in me since I was her.
I say for us both, The view doesn’t need to be captured. The moment doesn’t need to be frozen. You’ll see beauty and feel peace and awe and wonder. Just you wait. You’ll see and feel it again and again, because your God is good, and today, like each day that is to come, is an invitation to only enjoy.
What does living in faith, believing in God’s goodness, look like for you today?