I love photographs. Before the age of the iPhone, I did not leave home without a real-life camera in my pocket or handbag. If you’re as old as me, you’ll remember the unbearable time lapse between sending off your “film” by mail (that’s when you put something in an actual mailbox) and awaiting the return of your precious photos…unsure, even, if any of them will have turned out.
I am not a fabulous photographer, but I’ve always valued capturing moments. I adore fine photography, but for me, that isn’t the point. I’m a memory keeper.
One of my favourite Facebook functions is “On This Day.” I love reminiscing about what happened on this day three years ago, seven years ago, twelve years ago. With a visual aid, memories come rushing back in a detailed manner that my thoughts alone couldn’t manage.
Recently, a video from ten years ago re-surfaced that caused me to laugh explosively like I did when it happened. My, then, five-year-old son and three-year-old daughter had worked tirelessly to transfer freezing-cold, dirty water from the ditch, one plastic bucket-full at a time, into a small, plastic swimming pool—and then, they went ‘swimming.’ My voice can be heard in the background of the video, laughing and debating whether I’m a super-awesome mom or a negligent mom for allowing this to happen.
Images frozen in time are precious, but I’ve been thinking about how they can also be dangerous in terms of memory and perception. That one moment captured can determine how we remember events or reactions. Positively or negatively.
A facial expression can be captured that assigns a particular feeling to a memory that may only have been fleeting.
Maybe we remember someone as snarky or sullen because of the way they were frozen in that moment.
A brief moment is captured and remembered in what was truly inconsequential to the larger story.
Or maybe we fondly remember a person who wasn’t that awesome most of the time.
We are more than our moments. Our moments make up our larger story, but they are not the whole story.
I am embarrassed to admit this out loud, but occasionally, I run into people that I knew in my younger years and immediately, a memory (a snapshot of who they were then) returns to me. With maturity, I know that they have likely grown to become whole, wonderful people. But what I remember is that one thing. That one misstep. That one rumour. That one snapshot.
We have to be careful not to limit people to snapshots. We must remember that we ourselves are not snapshots. We are all moving pictures. The moments that occur are not the end of the story, they are part of the story. If we freeze-frame, we’ll capture perceptions that are not true of the whole.
We also need to be careful that we don’t identify ourselves by small moments in our pasts.
Yes, I was a moody teenager at times, but I was also funny and delightful.
Harsh, thoughtless responses have certainly exited my mouth in difficult situations, but I am not harsh and thoughtless.
Maybe you have logged days, weeks and even years of recovery, only to relapse, but you are not forever lost.
We have walked through dark, painful seasons where hope has been little more than a flickering flame, but we are not hopeless.
We have tried and we have failed, but we are not failures.
The individual moments do not define us. They are parts of the larger story. A story where we are falling forward. Where, regardless of the steps backwards, we continue to gain ground.
As humans, we do not have the capacity to extract ourselves from time and space; to take a far enough step back from the timeline to see everything in the context of the larger story. But God does.
God is outside of time, able to observe our individual moments. God sees our wins and our losses. God sees our brilliant moments and our screw-ups. But we are never held hostage in the moment. We are growing toward and God is a witness and a proponent for what we are becoming.
Oh, how I want to adopt a similar stance! I desire to be that witness and supporter in the lives of the people I love.
Of course we don’t want to take every sad and destructive detour along the way to wholeness, but when we do deviate, we don’t memorialize the failure. We ARE going to fall. But let’s keep falling forward.
It’s imperative that we remind ourselves that snapshots don’t tell the whole story.
Much love to all of you on the journey.