Now that the weather is finally cooling down, I’m getting a chance to get back to my photography. I’ve had several field trips lately, and I’m getting some pretty good shots. Of course, I’ve gotten even more bad ones, but I think I’m getting better. Of course, my choice of subject matter tends to open me up to ridicule sometimes…
I found myself in just such a situation a few weeks ago. The day was beautiful: bright blue sky, puffy little clouds, and the sun ducking behind the clouds every once in a while just to offer a little relief from the heat of the direct sun. I decided it was a perfect day to head out to Valley Forge National Historical Park with my cameras. This is a 3,500 acre park, which includes scenic views over valleys, wooded areas, open pastures with white-tailed deer gently nibbling grass within just feet of park visitors. People are hiking, jogging, biking, or just lounging in the sunshine. I, on the other hand, am hunkered down in the midst of all these acres of glorious, natural beauty sitting on the cobblestones surrounding the National Memorial Arch, taking pictures.
And just what was I taking photos of? Um, acorn caps… That’s right; those little brown thingies that start their life on top of acorns. Two of them connected by the stem, laying on the cobblestones. There were thousands of them around, most of them crushed by the feet of park visitors that were enthralled with the view, or the history, and just simply walked right over what caught my attention. And we’re not talking about me just leaning over to click a quick picture. I sat down, on the cold, damp stones, taking shot after shot, for more than 30 minutes! In case you’re interested, here is one of the shots:
The interesting thing is that if you happened to notice these little caps as you walked by, they wouldn’t look like much. When they start being interesting is when you get down close, pushing aside all the other things around them. Things like the memorial arch looming overhead, or the American flag waving in the breeze, or the valley falling away from the crest of the hill where you are standing. As you move in closer and everything but these little caps falls away from your view, the beauty of these little gems begins to shine. It is only then, only after all the distractions are screened out, that you notice the amazing symmetry of the pattern on them. Only then that the subtle color variations take center stage, and rather than being described as just “brown”, they must be described by a number of adjectives. Only then that will you recognize how these delicate little caps are cradled in a bed of soft, green moss, tucked safely between four gray, cool paving stones.
So, what’s my point? I guess it’s that we need to begin to see our life circumstances through a different filter. We tend to look at things that happen to us as “good” or “bad”, depending on if we like them or not. We are even good at finding a Bible verse (or portion of Bible verse) that seems to agree with our assessment of things. What if, though, we began to look at the barren times, the times of isolation and loneliness, not as “bad” but as “hard, but important”. What if we were able to look at ourselves as God does: as though He only has eyes for us and no other love. Eyes that see every little detail, and thrills at how remarkable each is. What we would see would suprise us.
In the midst of life, with all the errands that need to be run, meetings that need to be had, people that need to be talked to, or ministered to, or visited with, we don’t really see what God has put in us. It’s easy to convice ourselves we are either more or less than we really are, depending on our nature. However, in the wilderness times, as God removes the comforts and distractions, whether connections with people, church activities, jobs, or whatever, we are left alone with only Him and us. Now that’s a scary place! There is nothing to keep us from seeing ourselves as we are, and we are often surprised at what we see. If we have been delusional about how great we are, these times teach us just how much we depend on God for every little thing. If we have seen ourselves as less than we are, maybe even worthless, those delsuions fall away as well. With nothing left to hide behind, the truth that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” is allowed to stand alone.
What is truly amazing is that if we are willing to embrace Him as we dwell in the isolation of the wilderness, not only do we begin to see the beauty He has placed within us, we begin to see His beauty, as well. In the early stages of our recent wilderness experience, I struggled with/against God. I got frustrated with Him, believing I was in such a tough spot because He wasn’t pleased with me. (Before it was all over, I think I had repented of everything but breathing!)
As time went by, though, and he stripped away all those layers of family, friends, schedules, and even church, I was left alone with Him, and there was nothing left to distract me from looking Him in the face. What I saw was amazing. I began to see His love for me in the midst of the hard, dark place. I no longer needed circumstances to be favorable in order to feel assured of His love for me. I knew, even in the hardest of times, that He was there, loving me. I became aware of the beauty of who He is, and of His plan (even when my flesh says His plan stinks!). I began to see His “bigness”, and the wisdom of the pain He allows in my life.
So, would I voluntarily go through such a season again? Probably not. But at the same time, I’m grateful He took me through it. I’m glad He taught me to lean on Him. I’m glad He took away all my distractions and caused me to kneel down and take time to see myself and Him in His reality. So, as hard as it is to admit, I’m glad for the season of isolation. It was hard; it was painful. But it was also fruitful.