On Presence

The other day, while in the midst of the cacophonous tropical storm known in our home as "bath time," my son Cæd calmed for a moment, looked up, and gave a sly kind of half-grin.  Being a modern-day Dad, I had my iPhone at hand, whipped it out, and caught his savoring of the moment on "film," posted it online, and basked in the glow of having bagged another trophy of the good times of being a family.  As soon as I captured it though, I knew it wouldn't be enough.  It is a shadow, a breath, and the best it can do is, like driving past a favorite restaurant, bring back the memory of a savored experience.  But it's not the memory I want, it's the meal.

As young parents, we are consistently advised to "cherish these moments!" and I completely understand why: they are the grout that holds together the all the pieces in the mosaic of family life, they are the foundation clung to when the project of the moment seems to be fracturing, they are the sweet wine sipped on the front porch of reminiscence.  And yet, they are but a breath, and then gone.  Gone.  And I think the truth is that this is actually what we were made for.

Now don't hear me wrongly; in our era of high quality cameras readily available at a moment's notice, I have become a big fan of Instagram!  I've always been a picture kind of guy, and while I do love words, I am not nimble enough with them to succinctly capture the sweetness of the every-day in the midst of the every-day (hence this being the first blog post I've written in about 3 years).  But pictures on the other hand, pictures!  A whole relationship captured in the look one sibling offers the other, a unique angle that restructures the way you think about a familiar object, a particular focus that brings the essence of a moment new value.  The ability to create an ongoing, in-the-moment, photo journal record of many of the sights, perspectives, and experiences that my family and I have been blessed to encounter together along the way is a beautiful thing!  But the drive to preserve all of life's moments rather than simply chronicle them can leave us with a whole host of things we were never really made for: guilt at having missed the moment, ambition to use our families to show off to our friends, and even the hollow presence of being with one another in a moment, but only by being on the other side of a lens and screen.

Rather, I believe Scripture shows us that we were actually made for transience.  As Jesus gathered his disciples he never asked them simply to come to him and stop, but instead said "follow me" as he went forward.  Paul talks about our life in Christ by reminding his readers that we are "being renewed day by day" (2 Cor. 4:16), by praying that our "love may abound more and more" (Phil. 1:9), and by exhorting that "all may see your progress" (1 Tim. 4:15).  Mary even models this well when it says of her that, after giving birth to Jesus and hearing the revelation from the shepherds, she "treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart" (Luke 2:19).  Notice that she doesn't preserve them, yearning to hang on to them, but "pondering them, so as to understand their implications for the present and future.  Life in Christ, and thus life as a whole, is for growth, moving us ever forward through his plans and designs.

In an age that demands we document and preserve everything, what we are built for instead is to be present within and process forward through everything.  So keep Instagramming! Keep bringing up that obnoxious "There is not enough available storage" message on your iPhone!  But do so in order to grow, in order to set markers of God's goodness that you can draw courage from in the future, in order to invite others into your blessings and tell of his faithfulness, and not to preserve a moment or create a fable of "glory days" to mourn.  Our God is a God of forward motion, and thus we are a people of forward motion as well. Let us build wisely on the moments he gives us.


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