By Laurie A. Stasi
The sunset was amazing last night. The creamy clouds blended into soft pink puffs and reflected on the St. Johns River in watery swirls of delight. I longed for my DSLR camera with the familiar creative craving I have grown accustomed to. I didn’t even have my Iphone on me. Soon the bright light from the setting sun mirrored on the water, and danced under the boat docks along the shore. It was stunning.
“Do you have your phone?” I questioned Paul, my husband. He shook his head, no. I resisted the incredible urge to run into the condo and grab my camera. I am in recovery. I took a breath and enjoyed the beauty before me in a moment of silent gratitude.
You see, in every occasion that I run away to get my camera, I am not in the moment. I am not savoring the beauty and the treasure before me. My fleshly desire is to attempt to capture them in megapixels and keep them as pearls in a box. Many of you know the feeling. Why let beauty fade away when I can confine it?
I began taking pictures in 1979, in the days of the SLR, with a simple Pentax camera. We used real film, and I developed many photos in the dark rooms at my high school and college. Film was costly, so I had to decide the value of every shot I took. When I brought rolls of film to the Fotomat for developing, it was expensive. We didn’t take thousands of photos, we took dozens, and on special occasions like a wedding, I took a couple hundred.
In 2001, our daughter, Amanda, graduated from 8th grade I anticipated the excitement of watching her walk across the stage and receive her diploma. Years of my daughter’s life were encapsulated in this ceremony. I held our new video camera in my lap. I was ready when they called her name. I steadied, and pushed the magic button, and concentrated on adjusting the frame to keep her figure within the little box. The moment I pushed “stop” I realized something devastating that stuck with me for many years. I had not appreciated the special moment and really enjoyed Amanda in her victory. I was focused on a little box. I missed the delight and excitement, the pride and celebration. There are occasions in our life when we need to treasure the moment and I missed it. To make matters worse, we lost the graduation video file just weeks later, never to be found again.
When our son, Luke, bought his first Canon digital camera, our family was hooked. It wasn’t long before each of us had one of our own. Thousands of photos multiplied on the hard drive of my computer. I separated pictures into events, and years. When we wanted or needed a few photos to print or share, it became an overwhelming task to find them. I had to sort through thousands. How do you enjoy tens of thousands of photos? In the days of film we had a few favorites and printed them. We appreciated every one as a special memento. Now I have thousands from every trip we take, hundreds from every event, birthday and outing. Abundance has devalued every shot. Who has time to go through all those photos?
I admire beauty. I love the bounty of color and the feel of texture. I appreciate composition and the character in every person’s face. I love wrinkled homeless men with white bushy beards and have to resist the urge to violate their privacy. I adore the way shadows fall gently on a person sitting by a window. I love every variety of flower, the way they look magnified with my telephoto lens, accentuating every fold and crease of the petals and arch of the stamen. I want to capture every moment with my grandchildren, their expressions and their innocent loveliness. As an artist, I want to capture every time my heart sings, “This is gorgeous; this is exquisite.”
After taking tens of thousands of photos, I have come to realize that taking a picture of every admirable thing when my heart sings is not the greatest use of that moment in time. This is my epiphany: The greatest use of that moment in time is to Praise God for that expression of beauty. It is to thank Him for the colorful sunset. It is to commune with HIM in celebration of a person, their momentous accomplishments, their distinctive wardrobe, their sparkling eyes, and their unique features. I want to praise Him for their personality and feel the love He has for them. In every moment admiring nature I want to whisper to His heart, that I love Him and the world He has made. My treasure is The Creator. I celebrate His abundance in the colors of autumn leaves and bushels of ruby apples. I tell Him how much I love the way the moonlight dances on the water, the way leaves glisten in sunlight. The camera cannot capture the true treasure that I find in the world now. His presence is priceless. I walk with The Creator in the garden of life and praise Him for bounteous beauty. I take time to smell the incense of His favor, celebrating with Him.
Yes, I still have my camera. But I am learning to resist obsessing about photos, and instead value and worship my Creator, the God who made it all. I now realize that the creative stirring in my heart to sing is really the Holy Spirit calling me to appreciate the beauty God is showing me. It is a call to worship Him.