Snapshots of FAITH in Life’s Transitions
I imagine you all want to know what happened when we left our daughter at college. We went. We cried a lot. We left her. We flew home. We had a week of mourning. We then helped her sister take over her old room (sorry, Karis). And life has continues to move on. Except she’s really, really far away. And our family is adjusting to a gaping hole.
If I was to say there was a moment that captured this transition, I would give you a snapshot from our first evening in her dorm. Her roommate had not yet moved in, so Karis, her dad and I sat on her new bed, surrounded by her two stuffed suitcases and a couple bags from Target. She sat between us just like when she was a little girl… dazed and overwhelmed. We took turns speaking a prayer of blessing over this next season in her life and in particular, over her new “home.”
I couldn’t help but remember an identical bedside moment eighteen years earlier. On the day Karis was born, Alex and I lay her on the middle of the hospital bed kneeling down on either side of her to pray tearful prayers of gratitude and dedication. Two identical snapshots at key bedside moments with our eldest… one at the moment of receiving. The other at the moment of releasing.
If only all our life snapshots could be so tranquil.
Take the dedication moment of our twins for example. We did the same bedside prayer with the twins at the hospital when they were a few hours old– except while we were kneeling in prayer, one baby got fussy, a nurse came in to do tests, and then 24 hours later we realized we had only dedicated one baby. And pretty much the snapshots for the next several years contain a blur of babies, chaos, and prayers on the fly.
Because the reality is that every life contains a mosaic of snapshots… joyful, painful, mundane, chaotic, peaceful.
I thought about this concept of snapshots quite a bit this summer as we were back visiting our friends and family. We get an unique perspective when we only see people every two years. Without the luxury of proximity, our relationships become a string of snapshots— capturing how they are at the moment of our visits.
Some years we get a snapshot of life at it’s best— people are smiling and healthy, vibrant and thriving in a season of great joy and fulfillment: births, marriages, traction in a life calling, a prospering business, opportunities for travel, relational health.
Yet other years, we find our friends in a dark valley. A marriage is crumbling. A child is struggling to find their way. A betrayal was discovered. A major loss has rattled their faith. A parent is declining. Bankruptcy is looming.
Some years the snapshots capture a scene from a battlefield as they are contending for someone, engaged in a health crisis, or in a season where God is rooting out a crippling lie. We meet them in the trenches of the battle— holed up, jumpy, wounded and weary, and uncertain of how things are going to turn out.
But one of the hardest snapshots to see from year to year are those of complacency. Little has changed from our last visit; the complaints are the same from year to year. They live neither with great joy nor great sorrow. Trudging forward on the treadmill of the “American dream” or stuck in a sub-culture that has stunted their growth, these people seem cut off from their own hearts.
As an outsider looking in at the series of snapshots, I’ve noticed a few things over the years…
No peak or valley lasts forever.
When we interface with someone bottoming out in a life crisis, it’s amazing how much of a difference two years time makes in healing and perspective. While occasionally I will meet with people two visits in a row and find them still in a dark valley, most of the time, they have moved to higher ground.
Valleys of crisis invite change. Valleys usually mean the existing system has been blown apart. But two years later, hopefully, a new system is being forged. Difficult choices have been made. A new equilibrium has been found.
Even a valley connected to a major loss like death or divorce will not look the same two years later. While the grief is still present, it will not be felt in the same magnitude and intensity for the rest of their lives. Somehow the loss becomes integrated into the story or moves from the foreground— they begin to see elements of redemption woven into the picture and start to discover a new, albeit very different, life.
No one snapshot has to define us for the rest of our lives.
In this internet age where a literal snapshot may follow you for the rest of your life, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking our life might be forever marred because of one terrible decision. We all have snapshots of sin and dysfunction we regret.
Still others of us have snapshots of abuse or tragedy and may feel as though we will never get beyond a horrible wrong imprinted on our hearts. Satan wants nothing more than to memorialize those snapshots and hold them over us to keep us in a prison of shame and hopelessness. He wants us to believe that moment will define us for the rest of our lives.
But not in God’s Kingdom.
Not one of our sins nor the sins committed against us need become the defining snapshot of our lives when they are surrendered to God. Our Redemptive God specializes in bringing beauty from the ashes of our lives…whatever has been scorched by the world, flesh or devil.
The snapshots of faith will stick out in technicolor in the Kingdom scrapbook.
Were God to create a scrapbook of our lives, we might be surprised at the snapshots He would love the most. We might focus on those that caught us at our best angle (i.e. our successes or strengths). Or we might assume that our spectacular failure would be the focal point of our story since that is often what is remembered here on earth.
But not in God’s Kingdom.
Whenever we turn our hearts toward God in an expression of trust, a brilliant image is captured and added into the Kingdom memory book of faith. These snapshots are precious in God’s sight; they actually bring God great pleasure (Hebrews 11:6).
Of course those snapshots hardly seem flattering to us— most often they are taken in moments of distress, fear, and weakness. But somehow God doesn’t mind the awkwardness, He sees the heart of His child turning toward Him in trust and dependence. Somehow in God’s economy, these are the snapshots He treasures and honors.
Some of the snapshots of faith with our girls have not been warm and fuzzy… like the one of us explaining to a hurting child why we had to move to another country. Or the one of me peeling a screaming child off the chainlink fence to drag her into Spanish school. Faith is often expressed in extremely painful moments.
The Bible tells us that these snapshots of faith fall into a special category… they live on in some sort of supernatural technicolor. In other words, acts of faith will outlive us. These snapshots become our legacy– ‘speaking’ when we are long gone more powerfully than our worst failures and our greatest successes (Hebrews 11:3).
We will have a boatload of opportunities for faith in our children’s lifetimes. And somehow every prayer of faith (hers, ours, her grandparents’, her great-grandmother and namesake) is living in technicolor in the spiritual realm. And I’m pretty sure they bring God joy.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.Hebrews 11:1