I am possibly the only person I know who has no saturation point for looking at other people’s photos. I am endlessly fascinated by who’s in them, where they are, what they’re doing, what time of day and year they were taken, where in the world. Most importantly though, I’m interested to see what they chose to shoot and why.
Because photos reveal not just their subject matter, but the photographer’s point of view. What do they draw my attention to? Is it all in focus or only partial? What connected with them about that particular view, those colours, that angle, that light? What stories are represented in those shots? What are the relationships captured in the frame? What’s their relationship with the photographer? What has the picture exposed?
If you’re looking at slides instead of photos (a family archive, say) sometimes the slides melt in the projector (check), or it’s not possible to bring the image into sharp focus because the slide itself wasn’t sharp focus in the first place (check check).
Sometimes a slide will come up and be met with silence. You just sit in the dark thinking, “What in the world was that?” You can’t make it out, or you’re not sure why the person took it, or it looks like a dud. Maybe the photographer is no longer around to ask. Maybe you’re just left looking at it for a while, trying to work it out.
My life feels like that at the moment. The Lord has brought me full circle and I’m facing all sorts of slides/memories in my family archive. Most of them have me in them, some of them do not.
Many memories are lovely. Others are ones I half-remember but don’t want to look at closely. Or I don’t want to remember. I don’t want to dig.
I’ll look at a memory I don’t want, a slice of life where we’re all caught in suspended animation and the remembrance is painful, half-buried and unresolved. The temptation is to say loudly to the Lord, “Yep, remember that! Don’t want it! NEXT SLIDE, PLEASE!”
But it’s as if He’s not listening. He keeps the memory before me to gently say, “No, daughter, look again. I want you to really look this time. What do you actually see? Can you find Me in it?”
No memory is unimportant and there are so many. Yet, since God Himself is the photographer, He is there for me to ask what they represent. To discover His point of view. He is inviting me to view them no longer through my lens, but His own.
I have to breathe deeply and trust this is not futile. This is me stepping into freedom and forgiveness, so I have to squint my eyes and choose to concentrate. To focus on the memory He’s brought close and personal right up to my face. Difficult memories that I think I know so intimately – those relationships, those events, those experiences, those words – in order to find what I haven’t yet seen in them. Himself. Within me, beside me, around me, beneath me, above me. There all along, just unseen:
My forgiving Saviour
My faithful Advocate
My Redeemer God
My omniscient Friend.
Slowly, slowly, the lights are coming up for me.
And I am beginning to see the whole frame.