As a future oriented human by nature, I constantly dream and plan for future adventures, meals, articles. You name it; I’ll dream about it and then expand on your vision. Pursuing more and building growth comes naturally to a person who always thinks about the horizon. So the idea of becoming present with myself drags my daydreaming into acceptance of the here and now, and it’s not usually a peaceful take down.
Even as I write this, I find I do not want to be here and now. The climate and overall tone of humanity at present is so dissonant that even a trained jazz vocalist like me has trouble hearing the beauty in the discord. So as I wade through the complexity of interactions, and the truth of my emotions, I am searching for God to speak differently to me now than ever before.
Have you ever taken a photograph and then felt deep satisfaction in the outcome? Back when shooting on film, we had to wait in the tension of development. I would spend hours in the art lab, and emerge smelling of chemicals: One to expose, one to prevent further exposure, one to solidify. The above image was captured on a smart phone, and I remember smiling at the simplicity of it. The depth captured, the movement, and the instant gratification of seeing my work fleshed out before me with no waiting time at all.
I love digital photography. The process of editing online to create an image that only you can create is magical. But the part I miss the most is the waiting without sight. In a dark room, the red lighting is kept low to prevent premature exposure of the captured images. In fact, in order to remove the film from its canister once out of the camera, you enter what amounts to a pitch black closet, maneuvering the film carefully along its edges and winding into the developing tank. Light leaks, while charming in J.J. Abrams’ movies, are not the goal.
The black and white developing lab is sacred space. It’s quiet. At first, you take shorter breaths, adjusting to the sharp smells and dim light. Between the supplies and the time, the investment of self-development is often prohibitive, so while the rest of the art department is full of chatter, this place overflows with focus.
I could write for hours on the depth and application of these three steps in the printing process, and how they apply to our hearts.
Deciding which image to print.
The framing, detail, and timing of exposure.
The immersion to stop over development and loss.
The fixer to secure the new image in place, protecting it from destruction.
I feel drawn to become present, and by simply remaining present, to become whole.
This is a season of development, with no end in sight and plenty of tension. But choosing to find an anchor to the present moment, like focusing on a single image to print, is a gift. Much of my confusion this season comes from the lack of forward momentum in my professional and personal goals, coupled with the unending tidal waves of shifting relationships. The overwhelm is a bit like choosing an image to develop, but not realizing the enlarger was out of focus until it was too late.
If we are not careful, then in the midst of this atypical season of life, we will refuse the present and miss out on our own movement toward wholeness and development of the new image or form God wants to shape in our identities. The tension of development is never a lonely process, no matter how quiet or dark it may feel. Exposure is simply a revealing of what or who we are, and as the image floats into vision, may we catch the scent of development, breathe deeply, and settle in for the manifest creativity to follow.