I’ve just returned from five days in Rome. It’s an amazing, beautiful and special city, and one which is full of history, culture, life and people. Aside from all the amazing sights and sounds of Rome, one of the most unique things about the city is the sheer number of tourists, all there to see the ancient buildings and religious treasures. Probably the most common sight is that of a tourist with a camera, taking a photo of something old or beautiful or famous.
I know this because I take photos. Lots of them. On our trip, I took 563 photos of things around Rome, from the Colosseum to St. Peter’s to the Vatican City, from the Trevi Fountain to the Spanish Steps. Thanks to technology and the advances of cameras in recent years, now pretty much everyone snaps away, taking shots to be shown to families and friends for years to come.
These photos effectively serve as memories, reminders to our brain of an event that is in the past. My photos of Rome will remind us of the days we spent there, what we did and what we saw.
But as good as a photograph can be, as effective at causing us to remember and as beautiful as it is, it is never as good as the real thing. The view from the top of St. Peter’s looks pretty good in digital form, but it doesn’t beat being 430ft up in the air above Rome, looking out over the Eternal City with the wind in my hair.
Whilst the memories and photos are brilliant, they don’t come close to being there, being in the moment and experiencing something for real.
I wonder if our relationships with God are a little like this. We have times of amazing experience with God – real moments of meeting with God, being changed and transformed by Him. And from these moments, we take memories and mental snapshots to remind us in the future. However, as with photographs, these memories do not beat the real thing.
A memory of an encounter with God is nothing compared to a real relationship with Him. The mental photo that we have reminds us of His faithfulness and love for us, but it is still a memory, a reminder of a great season of our life. These are, no doubt, important to remind us of our relationship with God.
But ultimately, we should not be content with looking back at mental photographs of God. We should constantly be seeking new experiences with God, new moments where we see Him and are transformed with Him. This comes from a living, active relationship with God. We must not live our relationship with Him in the past, but in the present. Let us seek God, seek His presence and will for our lives, and live with Him in the moment.