Have you noticed that most kids aren’t overly concerned about capturing perfect pictures? I’ve witnessed my fair share of tantrums, but rarely have I seen a child lose their cool because a picture-perfect moment went uncaptured. I wish I could say the same about adults. I have seen mothers and grandmothers boiling with anger, bribes, and guilt trips in attempts to document an “ideal” moment.
I think I understand their frustration. I have three photogenic daughters that look like miniature surfing instructors from a California tourism commercial. But they don’t seem to spend much time looking for opportunities to capture perfect photographs. They don’t yet think about getting positive comments on social media or the pose that will adorn the next Christmas card. They simply enjoy their activities and to them, a good photograph is nice but doesn’t add to their worth.
I realized that I was falling into the popular trap of using photos, especially of our family, to try to earn my worth. There was often inner conflict—I wanted to jump in the waves, dig in the dirt, and push the girls three-hundred times on the swings, but I needed my camera or phone in hand to catch the sweet moments in photographs, and then relish in the compliments of friends and family.
I didn’t just want pictures. I needed them to share with others to receive validation and acceptance. Author John Ortberg calls this “impression management,” and in The Life You’ve Always Wanted, encourages us to resign from such behavior. He writes, “Human conversation is largely an endless attempt to convince others that we are more assertive or clever or gentle or successful than they might think if we did not carefully educate them.” Sharing pictures online or through text was my attempt to convince them to think about me in a certain way.
I felt convicted to fast from posting pictures online. This was a humbling process. When I deactivated my social media accounts, my self-serving mindset was exposed. I caught myself still thinking about what someone might say about how cute the girls looked in a picture or what a great mom I seemed to be. I was very tempted—but slowly I felt surprising freedom from fleeting, worldly approval. I began to feel okay with “just” being present.
I was also conflicted because I did still want to savor special moments with photographs. After all, my kids would only be this little once! Taking pictures wasn’t sinful in itself but I needed a shift in perspective.
Perspective is one of the key components in photography. Experienced photographers utilize various angles and positions to convey depth and the relationship between different objects in a picture. Stepping back to shoot the Grand Canyon can better capture its vast grandeur. Adding a person to the shot gives a reference point to grasp its enormity. Kneeling to capture a child on the swings can better convey that wonderful feeling of airborne bliss. Even forced-perspective can give the impression that a tiny person is holding up the Tower of Pisa.
If I was going to document with purpose, I needed to change my internal perspective. I needed a different heart focus and lens to peer through. I wanted to take pictures that conveyed a depth of soul and the relationship between creation and the Creator. I needed to get down on my knees in humility to see from a new angle.
Around this same time, I felt God give me a word: Ebenezer.
In 1 Samuel 7, the Israelites found themselves facing their repeat enemies, the Philistines. Twice on this same battlefield in Benjamin, the Philistines had defeated the Israelites (1 Samuel 4:1-2, 4:10). But this time, God provided divine assistance and routed the Philistines in a huge victory for Israel. “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us’” (1 Samuel 7:12, NIV).
I loved the concept of a physical stone as a reminder of God’s faithfulness and goodness. I too struggled with the spiritual amnesia that has plagued God’s people since Genesis. What if I applied this Ebenezer approach to my photography?
That summer, my photography took on a much deeper meaning and purpose. Instead of stressfully scrambling to capture moments before they passed or staging my family with all eyes open and pearly smiles, I became a seeker of God’s faithfulness in everything we did. My camera became my net to catch glimpses of God’s character. When I experienced a moment that reminded me of Him, I snapped a shot that I hoped would convey my emotions as our family looked back at the picture. Some of my most memorable shots include:
- The awe and wonder on the girls’ faces at the aquarium, experiencing God as masterful Creator of such unique species
- Picking ripe blueberries and tasting His abundant goodness
- Fishing off the dock in excitement and hopefulness, reminding us of God’s provision in our successes or failures
- A fog-covered beach that helped us feel God’s covering and protection in a new way
- All five of us snuggling in bed on a Saturday morning, grateful for rest and new morning mercies
As I look back on my photos, I realize capturing my impressions actually enhanced my ability to be present. Each picture holds more meaning for me because they trigger memories of moments where I saw God’s love peeking through the veil. They’re glimpses of heaven on earth. Each of the images points back to His glory. I wasn’t angry if a moment went by undocumented. Some, I simply chose to treasure in my heart. And as long as God gifts me another day, there will surely be more opportunities to witness Him.
Let’s take this summer to shift the perspectives of our cameras and our hearts. Instead of documenting for the sake of impressing others (or even ourselves), let’s be on the lookout for God’s presence in our daily activity. What might He be trying to show us about Himself? When we see Him, let’s document for the sake of recognizing and remembering His deep love for us.
Consider creating a new photo album titled “Ebenezers” and enjoy filling it, and may your heart be filled also.
Encourage other women by sharing this post.